After two books, I think the thing I find most fun and exciting about Lynch’s stories is that he doesn’t have extra-ordinary characters. None of his characters, (aside from the bondsmagi) possess latent super-powers or even an unnatural bend towards some kind of skill. They’re just ordinary humans who get where they are by hard work and tenacity. And even when they’ve done their best, they still face very real and dangerous failure, and it’s that possible failure and its consequence that keeps me picking up these books.
In “Red Seas Under Red Skies” Locke and Jean escape to Tel Verrar across the Sea of Brass to nurse their wounds after last book’s bloody ending. And what I felt was missing for Locke’s character arc appears aplenty on the opening pages where we find him mentally and physically broken over the grief of his dead friends and strangling his friendship with Jean as he persists in the world’s biggest pity party.
After several months of this, Jean finally snaps him back to reality and Locke cooks up a new plan to replace all the funds they lost when they escaped. They travel on to what is the equivalent of Las Vegas where they plan to rob the biggest casino of them all: the Sinspire. However, much to Locke’s chagrin, his reputation as the Thorn of Camorr has proceeded him and the thieves end up pressed into forced piracy and at the beck and call of the archon; the most powerful political mover in Tel Verrar.
With zero skill set in sailing ships or naval command, they are given a month-long crash course in how to not embarrass themselves in front of actual sailors, but it’s clear to Locke very early-on that this endeavor is doomed.
And it explodes, quickly, with Locke and Jean finding themselves at the mercy of a real pirate captain, Zamira Darkasha.
And from this point on, I absolutely fell in love with this book. Lynch has done his research well as far as sea life and nautical history is concerned, painting a very real picture of existing on a churning boat 24/7, and the plot twists and turns as Locke’s hold on the increasingly complicated heist becomes more and more tenuous with every passing page.
It brings home the fact that Locke is just a man. He’s got a silver tongue, and fast moving brain, and some very practiced skills, but in the end he is a human who is as vulnerable to elements, emotions and blades like anyone else.
He doesn’t always know; he’s not always prepared, and heists don’t always go the way he plans.