In the last two weeks I have read:
This is the third book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence. The series focuses on a gang of thieves who have been trained since childhood to also be scholars, craftsman, actors, accountants, priests, and weapons masters. Any one of them could pick your pocket, beat you up in a back alley, or convince you that they were your long lost sibling here for the sole purpose of saving your rear end for the benevolent price of 99.95. They pull off the cons that would earn them instant nooses from the law, and wide-eyed shock from their fellow thieves… if anyone found out what they were doing.
Having read the other two, there were three things I knew going into this book:
1) The main character, Locke is an idiot and a scoundrel who imagines he’s a fox in the hen house of the world when he’s more accurately a very lucky puppy. But he’s my idiot scoundrel lucky puppy.
2) Jean, Locke’s best friend, could spend this entire book reading in a back corner, occasionally telling Locke, “NO” in a variety of uncompromising tones without looking up from the page, and he would still be my favorite.
3) I was going to laugh and enjoy myself through the whole thing, deep in the rich world the author built.
These are the three things I knew after reading the book:
1) Locke is very lucky. The farther I read in this series, the less I believe that Locke is a genius, and the more I believe that the gods of his world are looking down on him with wide eyes, deciding repeatedly to do the lords of the underworld a solid and keep him in the mortal realms for another year. If this is the kind of trouble he finds here, none of them want to see what he can dig up in hell.
I have a friend who actually stopped reading this series for that exact reason: she got tired of being told Locke was a genius while she could see seven better ways for him to have conducted his business. I can’t say she’s wrong, only that it doesn’t bother me to believe that someone who continues to be this lucky might eventually earn the awe of his friends.
2) Jean does a lot more than sit in the corner and read. I’m particularly fond of a fist fight he gets into with an actor and a conversation in which he fails to threaten a creaky, old woman on a rooftop.
The surprise was in meeting Sabetha, a thief who had been mentioned before but never previously appeared, and liking her almost as much. She is charming, dramatic, intelligent, self-aware, and self-composed. My only wish was that she and Jean had been given more time together, as the brother-sister relationship that was hinted at between these two dangerous and damaged people could have been a real delight.
3) I did really enjoy this book. I stayed up until four in the morning to finish this book. I’m not sure it’s my favorite of the series, and there is one plot point that I am concerned for how it will be played in the next book, but it delivered every smile that I expected.
Looking back, my decision to use a zombie’s first person narrative to test just how much I dislike zombie stories was on the same level as my decision to make a grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster when I was five. I didn’t think it through, and it ended up a mess.
This was not a book for me. I didn’t appreciate the front row seat for dismemberment. The weight of the story was never balanced with a smile. I had a hard time getting over the early murder of a character that felt trivialized by most of the other characters. I didn’t understand the mechanism of change, and the ending seemed too easy. I didn’t like the commonplace, banal nature of death.
I did like the statements that surviving wasn’t the same as living, and that surviving wasn’t enough in the long run. I liked that, in describing a pandemic, the book pointed at both the sick and the healthy and called them victims of the plague.
Overall, I don’t know if I can say it was a poor story, only that it wasn’t intended for me.
What books have you been reading? Tell me about them in the comments, or, if you’ve read any of the books I mentioned today, tell me what you thought.