Scott Lynch's debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was an enjoyable caper novel starring a band of (almost, but not quite stereotypical) thieves who plan heists and who mostly enjoy what they can take from life, both literally and figuratively I suppose. Its critical and popular (well, online popularity, anyways) success propelled Lynch into consideration for the Campbell Award (for Best "New" Writer) and the World Fantasy Award in the Best Novel category for the book. The combination of wit, excitement, and interesting characters more than compensated for the perceived spottiness of the prose and the sometimes-awkward pacing. It was an enjoyable book that held enough hints of goodness to lead many to eagerly awaiting the second volume in the planned seven-volume sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Unfortunately, the expected improvements in prose did not overcome the rather drab and boring plot. Jean and Locke are now in a new locale, engaged in a years-long quest to break into this super-restricted place called the Sinspire. The enemies they made by the end of the first book become aware of their presence. Some things happen, leading to them boarding a ship. And there the problems began for me.
Lynch still has a gift for turning phrases. There were many times in the first half of the novel that I smiled at how well he accomplished making witticisms that did not feel forced. However, as the story progressed, I felt as though the repartees overwhelmed what was happening. I found myself wishing that Lynch had not overindulged himself with demonstrating the bon mots and the bold demeanor of Jean and Locke, as it seemed that the pacing suffered greatly as a result. While there were not as many cringe-worthy statements of the obvious as was contained in the first book, the plot developments and ending of Red Seas Under Red Skies left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. Then again, it is very difficult for an author to write a story largely set at sea, devoid of the usual "exploration" devices, and make it seem fresh and invigorating. Perhaps the upcoming third volume, Republic of Thieves, will fulfill better the promise that the first volume held.
In summation, Red Seas Under Red Skies was a slight step down in the adventure/excitement scale, while the writing and characterization was good, although still there were moments when Lynch might have been better served to have cut out on the witticisms and improve the pacing and the overall plot of this novel. Mildly recommended for those who enjoyed the first book, but not a book that I would consider to be anywhere near the best of the year.
Note: The image here is taken from the signed limited-edition, which I own. I can say that the quality of the binding and the illustrations within were excellent, but since my review is for the story, I thought that it'd be better to mention this in an aside at the end rather than in the body of the review.
Publication Date: July 31, 2007 (US), Hardcover; October 30, 2007, Limited-Edition Hardcover
Publisher: Bantam Spectra (Hardcover), Subterranean Press (Limited-Edition Hardcover)