When I was six or seven, my favorite Saturday-morning cartoon was Pirates of the Dark Waters. (Which so didn’t age well, but nostalgia covers a multitude of sins.) In junior high, I went through a phase where I researched every famous pirate I knew of, just because I found them fascinating. I’ve loved every single one of The Pirates of the Caribbean movies, including those that some people considered flops. I had a poster of Jack Sparrow over my bed in high school, but that wasn’t because I loved pirates; that was because I had the hots for Johnny Depp in eyeliner. Anyway, moving on!
Fantasy is my favorite literary genre, but I’ve always found it sadly lacking in pirates. Yes, I know there are a few wonderful exceptions. But all in all, pirates are scarce in fantasy. So imagine my delight when the sequel to one of my favorite fantasy novels, The Lies of Locke Lamora, featured a heavy dose of piracy! And the aspects of piracy, from the hierarchy and camaraderie between the crew to the way battle is waged on the open sea to the ships themselves, were presented in such a captivating way that I could feel the wind brush my cheek and smell the salt in the air. Just based on that fact alone, this book would have made me happy. But there was so much more to love here.
As in Lies, the character development is incredible. Even supporting characters who only appear in a scene or two feel like real people. Main supporting characters are even more realistic, inspiring a plethora of emotions in readers. But then there’s Locke and Jean. This is the best friendship I’ve read in any book, it truly is. And I don’t say that lightly. There are other literary friendships that I adore, and that mean a lot to me. Sherlock and Watson, Harry and Ron and Hermione, Legolas and Gimli, Wax and Wayne, and so many more just pale in comparison to Locke and Jean; at least, they do for me.
Lynch’s descriptive powers are phenomenal. Just as I grew to love Camorr, dark side and all, I grew to love and hate Tal Verrar, and would envision its streets and docks and Sinspire just as well as I could Camorr’s canals and temples. In both books, the cities themselves played a large part in the cons Locke and Jean planned. The cons themselves, and the way bits and pieces of them are revealed throughout the story, are always a pleasure to read. Never in my life have chairs inspired so much curiosity in me.
Something else I really loved: there’s not even a hint of sexism in Lynch’s writing, which is refreshing in fantasy. Modern fantasy writers are getting much better at portraying female characters as women instead of props, but Lynch is one of the best I’ve ever read in this regard. His women are real. And women populate every profession in the books with equality to their male counterparts. Women are guards and soldiers and pirate captains, and I love how no one ever questions a woman’s ability to fight as well as any man.
There is romance in this story, romance that will make your heart bleed and your teeth ache with the sweetness of it. There are triumphs and betrayals and plots within plots. More than any other fantasy I’ve read, the first two Gentleman Bastards books have shocked me and inflicted severe emotional trauma. But they are also among the funniest books I’ve ever read. The dialogue is second to none. Some of the funniest lines I’ve read in my entire life came from the pen of Lynch. Here are just a few lines from the numerous that I highlighted in this book:
“Any man can fart in a closed room and say that he commands the wind”
“Maxilan, darling." Locke raised one eyebrow and smiled. "I knew you were driven, but I had no idea you could smoulder. Come, take me now! Jean won't mind; he'll avert his eyes like a gentleman.”
“You’re ten pints of crazy in a one-pint glass.”
“You needed a bath," Jean interrupted. "You were covered in self-pity.”
“You'd have to take your shoes and breeches off to count to twenty-one!”
There are many, MANY more fabulous lines, but I feel that I can’t repeat them in polite company. (That last one I probably shouldn’t have included either, but it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read and I couldn’t help myself!) Which means you’ll just have to pick up the book to read the best lines! If you do, I promise you’ll find one of the funniest, most heart-wrenching books you’ll ever read. This is a series well worth reading. I’ll leave you with a quote from Jean, about what it means to be a thief:
“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.”