The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch. ★★★★
One of the very first reviews I wrote was for Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves. Now it’s been a few years, I’m way more used to writing reviews, and, hey, I just reread The Republic of Thieves. And I feel like it’s time for a new review.
The Republic of Thieves is the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series, a fantasy series following intrepid conman Locke Lamora and his best friend Jean Tannen. The series starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora, and I suggest you read in order. The Republic of Thieves picks up where the last book left off, with Locke dying of a slow acting poison. It looks like this is the end for Locke, until a Bondsmagi makes him an offer. Every five years, the Bondsmagi hold a game, where two different fractions of the magi try to rig an election. If Locke agrees to work for them, they’ll cure him of the poison. Oh, and his rival? None other than Sabetha Belacoros, the only female Gentleman Bastard and the woman Locke fell in love with.
The Republic of Thieves is possibly my least favorite novel in the series to date. The stakes feel lower, the plotting is less twisty, and there’s less of that heist aspect which I so adore. Overall, the book is much more character driven than the previous novels, with a major thread being the exploration of the complicated relationship between Locke and Sabetha.
This is one area where the book excels. I loved Sabetha. She had a lot riding on her first appearance, since she’d been talked up for the previous two books but never actually shown. It would have been so easy for her to flounder under the weight of those expectations. It would have been so easy for her to be nothing more than “Locke’s love interest.” And that’s where the genius in her creation lies – Sabetha feels that if she gets together with Locke, she’d be nothing more than his girlfriend. And she doesn’t want that. She wants to be a great thief in her own right.
“Nobody admires anyone else without qualification. If they do they’re after an image, not a person.”
Sabetha also feels like Locke doesn’t really know her, despite his claims that he’s in love with her. She fears that he’s created a fantasy, a perfect image which he’s projecting onto her. Sabetha defies such expectations, and I hope to see more of her in the books going forward.
In a large part, The Republic of Thieves feels like it’s doing work as set up for later on in the series. It lays the foundations of Locke and Sabetha’s relationship. It gives some reveals regarding backstory. It hints at the secrets of the Elders and the bondmagi. It even contains a prophecy. This leads me to wonder about the future of the series. Will it venture more into epic fantasy series? Will there be an overarching villain or plot? If so, I believe The Republic of Thieves has planted the seeds for such. It may very well be the turning point for the series. Only time will tell.