Thursday, June 9, 2016

"There's No Freedom Quite Like That of Being Constantly Underestimated.": 3 Reasons You Should be Reading The Gentleman Bastards Series

Disclaimer: This is not a series for the faint of heart: there is swearing, violence, and occasional vulgarity. But I will guarantee that it delivers some of the most charming and true-hearted characters you will ever meet. It's well worth it. 

Did you love The Road to El Dorado as a child? Were you charmed by Robin Hood and Little John? As you grew older did your interests in witty and morally grey characters blossom as well? If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions, you may want to pick up a copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora. 

The Gentleman Bastards is a three-part (soon to be four) series that centers on the life of an orphan gone priest (then con man, then pirate...well, always con man, really) and those closest to him. In the service of the Crooked Warden they pull off some of the greatest schemes ever to take place across a faux-Venetian backdrop. The setting's alchemichally gilded nature provides just enough difference from the familiar. In language and humor Scott Lynch's world has enough in common with our own to make the reader feel invested, albeit curious.

1. The Bastards Themselves (and Other Associates)

'I only steal because my dear old family needs the money to live!' Locke Lamora made this proclamation with his wine glass held high; he and the other Gentleman Bastards were seated at the old witchwood table. . . . The others began to jeer. 'Liar!' they chorused'I only steal because this wicked world won't let me work an honest trade!' Calo cried, hoisting his own glass.'LIAR!''I only steal,' said Jean, 'because I've temporarily fallen in with bad company.''LIAR!'At last the ritual came to Bug; the boy raised his glass a bit shakily and yelled, 'I only steal because it's heaps of f****ng fun!''BASTARD!'
I once heard someone say that Locke Lamora has a heart of gold. He probably stole it, but it is indeed in his posession. Jean Tannen, his best friend and partner in crime, probably tried to make him apologize and give it back. The relationships between the characters in this world are so incredibly real. Locke is a slimy little weasel of a man who is incredibly intelligent, yet horribly impulsive. 

There aren't any official illustrations. Instead here's author Scott Lynch.

And then there's Jean Tannen,  an orphaned son of silk merchants with a head for numbers yet also a berserker. He is not to be trifled with. Jean is a large man with curly black hair, glasses, and a penchant for reading. He is also armed at all times with twin hatchets named The Wicked Sisters. To Locke's Robin Hood, he is Little John (again, not quite so little). Their friendship isn't without its faults. Both men have quirks which causes them to justifiably butt heads at times. 

Beyond Locke and Jean, we are gifted with a plethora of wonderful characters who will rip out your heart and put it back together in a million ways while simultaneously attempting to empty your pockets. I can't go into more detail because spoilers. 

2. I have a better idea of what Camorr looks like than I do New York.

As I mentioned previously, part of the series takes place in a fictional version of Venice, Italy during a time similar to what we know as the Renaissance. Each location is detailed with unique characteristics. Much is revealed through direct disclosure, but it never feels forced. Anecdotes provide a picture of what is at hand and even a small glimpse of how it came to be that way. Beyond Camorr, Tal Verrar and even lands unvisited are touched on robustly.

As for history, we are living in its ruins. And as for biographies, we are living with the consequences of all the decisions ever made in them. I tend not to read them for pleasure. It’s not unlike carefully scrutinizing the map when one has already reached the destination. ~ Locke
3. Authenticity

Jean grinned down at her, and she handed him something in a small silk bag.
'What's this?'
'Lock of my hair, ' she said. 'Meant to give it to you days ago, but we got busy with all the raiding. You know. Piracy. Hectic life. '
'Thank you, love, ' he said.
'Now, if you find yourself in trouble wherever you go, you can hold up that little bag to whoever's bothering you, and you can say, 'You have no idea who you're f****ng with. I'm under the protection of the lady who gave me this object of her favour. '
'And that's supposed to make them stop?'
'Shit no, that's just to confuse them. Then you kill them while they're standing there looking at you funny.'

I didn't expect to feel as much as I do for this series. I expected this to be another, "you should read" series that I forget about halfway through reading it. But no, my emotions made me stretch out reading the second book as long as possible to delay whatever impending emotional trauma could lie at the end. The grief and shock portrayed here is real. Characters don't simply shake off tragedy with a single heroic tear as they gaze off into the sunset. Their fight is visceral and ugly. Lynch doesn't beat around the bush: yes, joys deserve embrace, but so do sorrows.

Diseases are invented and science is fused with magic with the alchemy continually referenced by characters in this world. References are slipped in and out in just a way that one might miss it if they aren't paying attention. Cultures are created in such a way that one could almost believe they were in fact a part of humanity's past. Which is exactly why you should read this series in the first place. You have until September when Thorn of Emberlain is released.


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