The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch (Book Review)

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Following on from reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, the Republic of Thieves is the third in the Gentleman Bastards series:

Locke and Jean barely escaped with their lives from what should have been the greatest heist of their career, in the port city of Tal Verrar. Now they head north, looking for sanctuary and an alchemist who can cure the poison that is slowly killing Locke. They find neither, but with their luck, money and hope exhausted, they receive an offer from a power that has never had their best interests at heart: The Bondsmagi of Karthain.

In exchange for the chance that Locke might be saved, the Bondsmagi expect the two Gentlemen Bastards to rig an election in their home city of Karthain. They will be opposed. The other side has already hired the services of Sabetha Belacoros, the one person in the world who might match Locke’s criminal skill, and the one person in the world who absolutely rules his heart.

Now it will be con artist against con artist in an election that couldn’t be more crooked, all for the benefit of the mysterious Bondsmagi, who have plans within plans and secrets they’re not telling…

The third book takes part in the city of Karthain, city of the Bondsmagi. Every 5 years, the Bondsmagi battle for power by backing one of the human political groups within the city, selecting an outside “adviser” to the group, and putting the city under a spell to be obedient to these advisers – a sort of game to watch too.

Locke and Jean are chosen to back one side, and their long-missing fellow Gentle(lady) Bastard, Sabetha, is chosen to back the other. As past relationships and new challenges arise incompatibly, the three must serve their masters who will accept no trickery in the elections – the one thing seemingly sacred to Bondsmagi.

We also learn more about the history of the land, past characters, and even some of Lockes origin.

Like the rest of the books in the series, this one continues with the amazing quality of writing, intriguing plot-lines, and unguessable twists caused by the genius of the main characters.

The ending of the book had me disappointed that the next has not yet been released for me to read immediately (here’s to hoping for a soon release!) With the return of old characters and clever explanations for Locke’s interest in Sabetha; the whole thing is left wide open for the fourth!

Overall the series has been a great introduction to fantasy writing for me, and will definitely lead me to read similar books in the genre. The large size of this volume seemed less intimidating due to the previous books in the series being so well written, and I found myself saddened when I neared the end.

Well worth a read if you haven’t done so already, and don’t be put off by the genre or length!

Patriotism – Yukio Mishima (Book Review)

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The image is explained by the fact the book has a white cover… oh well. This book was presented to me as an example of Japanese literature. Being described as ‘Nabokovian’ too, perhaps as a method of convincing me to try.

Shinji, a lieutenant in the Japanese army, arrives home to inform his wife that his friends have become mutineers. Due to his position in the army, he has been ordered to lead the attack against them.

Unwilling to slaughter his friends, Shinji decides that he must commit seppuku, and informing his wife of this, his wife decides to join him.

The book describes the last night the couple spend together before taking part in their mutually agreed upon ritual suicide.

The tension of the book was felt throughout, with the reader and characters being made fully aware of what was to come.

The whole feel of the short story is intense, and the attitude with which the characters face their death is with both bravery and sorrow.

The book is very well written for one so short. The writer manages to raise so many questions about the choices made by the characters. Their seemingly mundane activities before the event being doing with a gruesome level of normality. The act itself being described so graphically that you can almost feel it.

Being from a Western culture, the act of seppuku can often be quite staggering. When faced with the ‘honourable’ thing to do in battle, most Western armies agree to die by the hand of the enemy. In fact, deserting is a serious offence, and in the examples such as WW1, returning to safety meant returning to the gunfire of your previous allies.

In Japan, however, it seems more honourable to die by your own hands in the ritualistic way than to allow your enemies victory. It’s quite the opposite in terms of an ‘honourable death’ to what we expect, and so as a reflex the reaction is often one of disagreement: how can suicide be brave?

Yet strangely to myself, I felt that the way Shinji approached the event was certainly brave. The cold, sharp steel being just a fact to face up to. I don’t think I could do it… a slow and bloody death by a blade.

Overall the book was fantastic for it’s length. The author himself also dying by seppuku lends it a somewhat prophetic title and characteristic too.