2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Weighed Down by Too Much Ballast.,
This review is from: Red Seas Under Red Skies: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book Two (Paperback)
With the opening novel of this sequence 'The Lies of Locke Lamora' The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gollancz S.F.) Scott Lynch created something fresh and original. Strong characters, cracking dialogue and a use of language hitherto unknown in the fantasy genre. In my opinion 'Lies' is one of the best fantasy books ever written.
So, a lot to live up to then. I opened the second book with trepidation, surely it couldn't match it's predecessor? Well, sadly, it doesn't. Things start promisingly, Locke and Jean have moved on to another city, and are planning another audacious heist. The same rapid fire dialogue is present, and in the opening chapters, Lynch's descriptive powers are at their strongest, but before long things start to go awry.
The main weakness of 'Skies' is that rather than the main characters controlling their destiny, which was the strength of 'Lies', events beyond Locke and Jean's control, all to often dictate what they do next; so just when the reader is comfortable with the where the story is going, the plot suddenly veers dramatically elsewhere. The schemes within schemes that worked well in the first novel, here seem too elaborate and complicated.
Whilst reading the novel, I felt very much that some editorial pruning was in order; there are many unnecessary bits of padding, particularly on the open seas and in places, Lynch gets rather carried away with the details of the world he created. Every setting and scene in the book is super-elaborate, with alchemical this or clock-work that; Lynch clearly enjoys writing this stuff, but after a while it starts to detract from the flow of the story. Sadly, midway through the book, this superfluous filler, made it feel like I was reading just another run-of-the-mill fantasy novel; trying to make up for too little plot, with too much description.
That said, despite dragging in the middle, the first and final thirds of 'Skies' is pretty good stuff. If I wasn't comparing it to the quality of 'Lies', I probably wouldn't have been half as disappointed. The last third, may be slightly rushed, but it's compelling writing, and I read through rapidly, desperate to know how the novel would end. The book finishes, as you might expect, with a couple of neat twists and a strong (if contrived) cliffhanger to take us into the next book. 'Skies' is disappointing after 'Lies' but still worth reading; hopefully Lynch will back on top form for number 3.