On My Bookshelf: The Republic of Thieves

I’ve waited seven years to continue reading Scott Lynch and his series begun here and continued here.

After an author’s long hiatus The Republic of Thieves emerges as the third book in a seven-book series. Like installments one and two, it is engrossing. It’s not without disappointments, however well-written it might be.

The most glaring flaw involves the flashbacks to the main characters when they were seven-year-old children. The problem is that they think and talk like adults. Maybe years on the fantasy planet described here are two or three years long in Earth time. But probably not. I think there’s a way to tell the relevant backstory of an interesting set of characters without sacrificing believability. I can believe children can be hardened to become cruel, criminal, and devious. I can’t believe they will think and talk like mini-adults. This almost killed the book for me.

Another problem is that the flashback sequences dull the pace of the main plot. The three protagonists find themselves hired to manage opposite sides of a political campaign–hence the “republic” of the title. I got two-thirds of the way through the book and the election season was just getting heated. Meanwhile, the reader slogs through an awkward dance between a teenaged boy and girl. In their past, they find themselves improbable actors in a drama of the same title as the book. Maybe too clever. Maybe that subplot/backstory would have made for a better, shorter novel in the series. There was a lot of intrigue and menace in the main story, and a devious piece of trickery that was far more interesting to me. When the characters quoted long stretches of the play-within-a-book, I just wanted to get back to the main action. The side-action with pirates on the high seas was engaging in book 2. High school drama club doesn’t quite compare. And there’s a closer brush with disaster when the kids are overheard professing love than when a particular noble is murdered and a tough bit of subterfuge must be engaged to keep everybody out of death row.

By the time I got to the end of the book, the backstory resolves itself neatly and the main plot resolved in a pedestrian and predictable way. Then there was a surprise ending that sets things up for book four.

I suspect the author plotted this novel as he did because he wanted to gradually reveal the details of the boy-girl/man-woman relationship. It seemed a little too clever on one hand, and not clever enough in its literary execution on the other.

I thought book two was slightly superior to book one. It’s been awhile since I read them. So to compare The Republic of Thieves, I’d have to say this book isn’t quite as good. Still, I’d recommend starting at the beginning. And if you find you like Lies and Red, you’ll want to continue with this book.

Thieves is a long book–it comes to 650 pages. Like many massive fantasy tomes, it is packed with details. It could easily have been twice as long if the author wanted to spin out the stories of political intrigue at the pace he set earlier in the book. My ultimate assessment here: decent but disappointing. I’ll keep reading this series because I’m hooked on the characters. Which seems to be how the publishers get these serial novels to be purchased.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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