Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch Rothdas book review RSS
3.4 Stars

Going into this book, my expectations were kind of low. I remembered the previous entry in the series as having high points, but also as being marred by being somewhat turgid writing and a somewhat generic thieves guild setting and silly plots and so on. But I started reading _Red_, and for at least the first 200 pages I was steadily surprised as I enjoyed the book more and more. The setting is much improved, and moves on to a sort of Dishonored 2 locale with complicated clockworks and dozens of different poisons and more interesting capers and politics. There wasn't any long origin story to slog through, it was just the characters in their prime doing neat things. So at 200 pages in, I was ready to love it. And then the book jumps the shark. It moves everything out to sea and switches to being a naval/pirate adventure story. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised as the title is _Red Seas Under Red Skies_, and it does have a picture of a boat on the cover, but it still came as a disappointment and the quality of the book fell for the around 500 page of naval adventure that followed. Part of the problem is that by moving out to sea, the book sacrifices the momentum it had built up over the previous 200 pages. All of the main plots are put on the back burner, the characters have new "origin stories" as they learn the ways of the sea, and a completely new set of characters and locales are introduced. Also, the book suffers by comparison to the many, many, many high quality naval books that have been written before. Foremost in my mind are the Jack Aubrey/Steven Maturin stories, of which I have read 20, and which have basically conquered the genre for me. So the book loses its momentum, moves into an area that is already dominated by great writers, and generally becomes becalmed [Ed. you really should have started the naval puns earlier in the review]. The naval stories are ok, but they not great. And then the last 60 pages of the book wraps up all of the main plot points that were started in that first 200 pages.

This structure/framework of the book is unfortunate, as I think Scott Lynch has it in him to write some excellent stories. Just make them shorter Scott! Write a 260 page book that gleams, and not a 760 page book with all sorts of padding. Take a vacation, read some Isaac Babel. Also, work on your plotting. :) As with the first book, several of the plots just did not make sense. There is one character and his super power is supposed to be that he is supremely skilled at conning/convincing/out-planning people, but in the story it just does not work and often comes through as authorial fiat. Supposedly smart people continually fall for really dumb tricks, or come up with plots/justifications that make no sense at all. E.g. there is a banker/casino owner who stores the merchant prince's money. The military leader is at cold war with the merchant princes. The protagonist has a plan to steal *all* of the merchant prince's money. The protagonist falls into the hands of the military leader. At this point the military leader could just say "go ahead", as stealing the money would win him the contest. Instead, he puts everyone on a boat. :0

Not all of the plots are like this, but several of them are and they just do not work. Ok, now on to book three which is hopefully boat free.