Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch — Firm Favourite

Previous in the series: The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Fantasy heist meets pirate adventure: Red Seas Under Red Skies couldn’t be more made for me if it tried. Or maybe it could, it opens with a scene of betrayal and backstabbing. I love a clever treason, especially if there are pirates involved.

‘Tonight is delicate business,’ said Drakasha. ‘Misstepping in Port Prodigal after midnight is like pissing on an angry snake. I need -‘
‘Ahem,’ said Locke. ‘Originally, we’re from Camorr.’
‘Oh. Be on the boat in five minutes,’ said Drakasha.

—  Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch

What I love most about Red Seas Under Red Skies (apart from everything) is the continuation of the friendship between Locke and Jean. In the early part of the novel, Scott Lynch once again uses the structure of interwoven timelines to visit some of Jean and Locke’s worst moments: when they’re at each other’s throats or wallowing in self-pity and grief. By showing those moments, when they can still need each other and rely on each other without liking each other very much, Scott Lynch makes the relationship so much more real. It reminded me a little of the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s texts.

This is where you and I are headed, Thorn – or at least you are. Look for us in history books and you’ll find us in the margins. Look for us in legends and you might just find us celebrated.

—  Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch

One of The Lies of Locke Lamora‘s few flaws is the absence of important female characters. Red Seas Under Red Skies goes some way to make up for that. Both Captain Zamira Drakasha and Lieutenant Ezri Delmastro are badass pirate women – but not uncomplicatedly badass. Zamira has a maternal side, and the friendship between the two women does a lot to round them out as characters. There’s also a love story. While it doesn’t get a lot of page space, it’s nonetheless effective. (Though I might be biased, because I love anyone who loves my favourite character.)

‘You are the only thing,’ she whispered through the iron grip of her embrace, ‘the only thing on this whole fucking ocean that’s mine, Jean Tannen.’

—  Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch

After about the first third, Red Seas Under Red Skies drops the device of going back and forth between timelines (for the most part). I honestly kind of miss it, and I think the middle of the book suffers ever so slightly from being so very linear. The end more than makes up for it, packing in so much action and tying together so many lose ends that even on this reread, I raced through the last couple of hundred pages.

Despite the pirates, I don’t love Red Seas Under Red Seas quite as much as I love The Lies of Locke Lamora, but that’s an exceptionally high bar! If you’ve ever read a crossover fic between Ocean’s Eleven and Pirates of the Caribbean, you should read this! (That crossover doesn’t actually exist, more is the pity.)

Next, I’ll be reading Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next in the series: The Republic of Thieves.

3 thoughts on “Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch — Firm Favourite

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