This post contains spoilers.

My initial impression of RSURS was mixed; on one hand, I was glad to see the return of Locke and Jean after the heart-stopping prologue, but on the other…

I suppose I’ve read too many linear books as of late. Scott Lynch’s unravelling the story along two separate timelines — one before, one after — takes some getting used to which made the first eighty pages or so a heavy read. I also found myself wanting a map of the city of Tal Verarr because it was hard to keep track of the descriptions, as beautiful as the locale sounds.1My sense of direction in real life is fairly good, but ask me to create a mental map of something and I will get lost in a round room the size of a toilet cubicle.

Having said that, I’m glad to see that Lynch’s brilliant grifters haven’t lost their humanity in favour of being smoothly polished confidence scammers with wits sharp as professionally cut diamonds. Jean’s mothering helping the young gang of thieves along and Locke’s turning to the bottle are such human reactions to the loss they’ve had to face, I was almost angry at Locke for screwing up Jean’s plans in Vel Virazzo. Then again, it might have turned out to be as unhealthy a coping mechanism as copious amounts of wine.

The way Jean dragged Locke out of his cesspit of self-pity was hilarious, especially their banter. “The Locke Lamora I used to know would spit on you,” indeed! Then Locke goes to prove that he is still the best thief in the whole goddamn world — and, unsurprisingly, overdoes it by a mile.

I absolutely love how skilfully Lynch brings his world alive with ordinary details. You know how in action films nobody ever has to stop to take a leak? In RSURS, they do. People vomit, and sweat, and are bothered by injuries that refuse to heal properly. They lick sugar dusting off their fingers and, more importantly, have their cocks sucked by sharks to rely on mundane aspects to pull off their cons.2For the record, “I hope a shark tries to suck your cock!” is my new favourite curse.

… Well, somewhat mundane, anyway. Alchemy borders on magic but has its own set of rules. Magic in the traditional sense is something alien and feared, spmething supernatural — the talent of the few. There is no spell to make Lord Landreval’s face swell up like a balloon; he is, however, allergic to completely ordinary lemons. It shows clever thinking to rely on realistic means of achieving your goals instead of turning to magic for every little thing.

Now, on to this week’s questions!

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

I have no idea. Since I’m a paranoid bastard by nature, I’m not entirely convinced that the Sinspire vault is their primary target, although the involvement of Azura Gallardine seems to suggest so.3I adore Gallardine’s no-nonsense manner and the gruesome stories of Requin’s history she tells Jean. They certainly worked hard to convince everyone that they are going to break into the vault — but perhaps that’s not the important thing…? The (corkscrew-y) way I think about it, we as readers are similarly convinced of their intentions as, say, Requin, even though we know more than he does.

2.  Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?

If I had to make an educated guess at this point — I haven’t got further than the start of chapter four — I’d say that they either fool Requin into relocating his treasure into a safer place, coincidentally managed by Locke and/or Jean (under a different name, of course), or they have another target altogether. I find it hard to believe that they would attempt to accomplish it the old-fashioned way, i.e. sneak in and walk out with the goods.

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

I miss them some but not as much as I would have missed Jean. The scam they are trying to pull off is so different, from the setting to the execution, that I think it would have been difficult for a writer to carry around more than two main characters. Two people together in a city like that will pass unnoticed, but five? But, since they are dead — and the whole issue with the Bondsmagi is due to the fact that they are dead — there’s no point to what-ifs.

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

No, for two reasons: One, as I mentioned earlier, I reckon that Jean’s building a new guild of thieves is part a rational decision, part — bigger part — a way to deal with his grief. In the long run, it would have proven to be a bad idea to settle down and create a new guild in the first city they stop in after fleeing Camorr. Two, even though Jean seems happy enough to start a new guild, I’m not so sure about Locke. He relies on and trusts Jean, as he did with the other thieves in their group, but could he form a bond like that again, so soon after? So no, at least not in this book they won’t. (I did love the way Jean handled the Brass Coves, though!)

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?

Mm, not really. I tend to abhor romance in grift stories as it’s nearly always an unnecessary sub-plot entanglement rather than an integral part of the story. (Granted, I don’t remember all that much about Sabetha from the first book.) If she does appear in this book, I hope Lynch makes it count.

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

There is so much going on in RSURS altogether! There’s the Sinspire, and the Archon, and the Bondsmagi, and the master plan Locke has cooked up; I simply don’t know which plot I should be paying the most attention to. Unless I misunderstood something, the Archon has connections to the Bondsmagi but has less power in the city than Requin. Maybe he will attempt to use the Bastards against Requin to strengthen his own position, and then keep them in a leash for gods only know how long. (I felt vaguely proud of myself when I read about the poison; the thought of it being in the goblets instead of the cider did briefly cross my mind.) Then again — the poison being a possible unexpected complication — Locke and Jean are now in very close contact with the Archon, who thinks he has them under control… That’s something to think about.

Until next week!