This is the second book in the Gentleman Bastard series. The first, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is Scott Lynch’s first novel, and he came out of the gate strong. Fast-paced, intricately crafted plot. Hilarious, snappy writing (the humor does skew a little vulgar; see above re: fart jokes). Characters that you wish could come out of the book and be your best friends, despite their penchant for cons and thievery.
All of that continues in Red Seas Under Red Skies, with the addition of pirates.
The thing about this series is that it changes gears incredibly fast from “entertainingly ludicrous chaos,” during which things might be going terribly wrong, but the gang still seems to retain some control over the ultimate outcome; to “serious, climactic disaster,” during which all control is lost and the best anyone can hope for is survival. It’s not guaranteed. There’s at least one significant death in both books.
You don’t see the shift coming, but once it does, all the little hints and foreshadowing suddenly fall into place and you wonder how you could possibly have missed it all. And you don’t realize how invested you’ve become in the characters until terrible, unrightable wrongs are being done to them and you’re in tears over it. I love it when a book sneaks up on me like that. If you do too, this series should be high on your to-read list.
After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, ﬂed the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can't rest for long--and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.
This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine ﬂoors attract the wealthiest clientele--and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior...and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.
Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine ﬂoors...straight to Requin's teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb--until they are closer to the spoils than ever.
But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough...