This post contains spoilers.

Only a week left! Time has flown past so quickly, I don’t even. Whatever will I read once this thing is over?1A purely rhetorical question, folks; I’ve got twenty library books and about fifty of my own stacked  in variously sized piles on every available surface, waiting to be read.

I found this week’s reading slightly less entertaining than previous parts of the novel, probably because of how out-of-character the “court scene” felt to me. The symbolism of the new crewmates’ initiation was apt, what with the land not wanting them and the sea refusing to claim them, but Captain Drakasha parading around in a tattered old wig and playing a judge came off as… awkward.

Fun, as far as scenes go, but awkward.

However, I loved Jean’s clumsy flirting with Ezri. And the practicing on barrels! He is so wonderfully clever and witty when he wants to be, it’s a pleasure to read. I think there’s a slight danger that they grow too codependent too fast, to the point of trying to protect each other when there is no need. They are both more than capable in a fight as we have seen, and trying to protect each other unnecessarily would only hinder them.

‘Mew,’ the kitten retorted, locking gazes with him. It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming. I was comfortable, and you dared to move, those jade eyes said. For that you must die.

Regal is such an adorable little kitten. Locke saying that he is not going to get attached to him made me snort. Keep telling yourself that, buddy, if it makes you feel better.

From the acknowledgements, I gathered that Scott Lynch has five pets; are they all cats? Some of them must be as the passages about Regal practically reek of a cat owner.2‘Cat provider’, that is. You don’t own cats, you provide for them; give them food and shelter, and they might deign to be scratched behind the ears and turn into a purring furball in your lap on a rainy day. I have participated in drool-sharing, pillow-serving and claw-sharpenering myself once upon a time.

The look we get of Port Prodigal was much appreciated. I always tried to imagine what Tortuga in Pirates of the Caribbean might be like on paper, since we do get a good look at it in the films but something essential was missing, something about the everyday life in a pirate port. To me, the bits where we are in Port Prodigal manage to relay that sense of permanence, of life going on without the main characters there, that PotC was lacking in its depiction of Tortuga.

Before we move on to this week’s questions, supplied by nrlymrtl at Dark Cargo, one of the best bits from this week’s reading:

‘Tonight is delicate business,’ said Drakasha. ‘Misstepping in Port Prodigal after midnight is like pissing on an angry snake. I need–‘

‘Ahem,’ said Locke. ‘Originally, we’re from Camorr.’

‘Oh. Be on the boat in five minutes,’ said Drakasha.

1. I was much relieved when Jean and Locke made up, which started with Locke’s gesture of a cup full of honesty with Cpt. Drakasha. Do you think that was hard for Locke? Or was he using this bit of honesty like any other weapon in his arsenal to get what he wants in the end?

By now, it’s obvious that this time Locke is in over his head. We’ve got to the point where I honestly think that his plans have got seriously out of hand and he’s just doing his best not to get himself and Jean killed. So yes, I think it is hard for him to trust Drakasha like that, but it is the only option he has left if he wants to get out of this mess alive.

Treat this woman as a mark, or treat her as an ally? Time was running out. This conversation was the point of decision…

This is the crux of it: Locke is running out of time. Drakasha is not like their usual marks because she is smart, knows enough to be wary of them, and has no material riches to lose (unless you count the Poison Orchid). She straight out tells Locke that she thinks she’s got Locke and Jean figured out, implying that she will have to make her decision — which probably won’t turn out to be favourable for the Bastards — and this is Locke’s last chance to appeal to her.

2. The Parlor Passage: We still don’t know Locke’s true name, but whatever was in that mist does. What do you think it is?

It sounds plausible that it was something Elder that’s been left behind, lived in the passage for centuries… but the figure of the tall, thin man that Jean saw bothers me more. Is it some kind of an Elder monster? Why does it want the sailors to leave the ship? Furthermore, why can’t it harm them while they remain onboard? Is the human figure only a manifestation of something bigger, more monstrous, or is it the real deal?

So many questions and so few answers! I’m fascinated with the sea monsters in this book.

Another interesting thing — unless I’ve got my books confused — is that the matter of Locke’s true name has come up twice in Red Seas Under Red Skies so far. What’s up with that? Could it be foreshadowing for another plot point yet to be revealed?32020 ed. note: Yes. Yes it could.

3. There was an interesting section of the book that started about where Locke assisted Drakasha in selling the Red Messenger; he put on the persona of Leocanto Kosta and used the alias Tavras Callas and then Drakasha was still thinking of him as Ravelle… Did using all those various aliases in such a short amount of time have your mind spinning a little? Do you think Lynch did this on purpose to give the reader a sense of Locke’s mind?

I haven’t thought of Locke in terms of his aliases after the mutiny on the Red Messenger, really, and him giving away his real identity to Drakasha earlier cemented him to me as simply ‘Locke’ by this point. I reckon that for Locke it must all be terribly confusing — or rather, it isn’t terribly confusing, yet. How many false identities can one man run at the same time?

4. That was a sweet little kiss between Cpt. Zamira and Cpt. Jaffrim at the end of the Captains’ Council. Do you think they have some history, or is it just innocent flirting that’s been going on for some time?

I’m pretty sure it’s just flirting that’s been going on for ages and ages but never leads to anything. They might have slept together once or twice, yeah, but there are no strong feelings or chemistry between them. Jaffrim on his own is rakishly attractive, though – and educated! That’s always a bonus.

5. Jean and Ezri. Cue dove-cooing and little winged hearts with sparkles. Do you think Jean will stay with the Poison Orchid or that Ezri will leave her ship to pal around with Jean and Locke?

This relationship has serious potential for doom. I can’t see Jean leaving Locke to stay onboard the Poison Orchid — but, similarly, I can’t see Ezri leaving Zamira and the ship. Whichever decision they eventually make, not everyone is going to be happy about.

6. What is Utgar up to? What are his motivations?

I’d say that Captain Rodanov has hired him to spy on another captain on the council. Has he another motive aside from profit? I ain’t got the faintest. The mysterious item he plans to use worries me.

7. So last week we hashed over that Merrain killed some of Stragos’s guards on Windward Rock. But when Jean and Locke visit him, he doesn’t mention it. What is up with that?

I was wondering about the same thing! I expected him to be downright pissed about it. Perhaps it was the combination of wine and being busy that prevented him from going deeper into the matter?

Akshay suggested that he might be saving the shit storm for later and I feel inclined to agree with them. The festival of Iono did seem to be awfully important, so maybe Stragos couldn’t spare the time to rip Locke a new one over the deaths of his guards.

8. This week’s section left us where the book began – Jean pointing a crossbow at Locke’s throat. Do you think Jean knows who sent these crossbowers? Is he on their side? Is it a clever ploy to get him and Locke out of this predicament? Did you find it excruciatingly hard to stop here?

I must confess that I got so caught up in all the other excitement that I completely forgot about this scene. (I know, right?) I pretty soon convinced myself that Jean is just acting. Why is that? Well.

You see, Jean is so extremely vague when he turns on Locke.

First, he points his crossbow at Locke — who, remember now, is in no danger at all if Jean is faking — and then convinces the man threatening him to also target Locke. “You gave me no choice but to cut a deal with the employer of these gentlemen before we set out,” Jean says without elaborating, and, “I thought they’d make contact before they drew down on us.” The latter is a carefully veiled implication that Jean has been in contact with someone higher in the food chain than the men who attacked them.

The men don’t know any better, so they readily believe that Jean could turn on Locke. It is them Jean needs to convince to get himself and Locke out unharmed, so he pretends to be an ally by being just vague enough to sound convincing without going into detail.4The only thing that worries me is the hand signal Locke panics about. Where is the hand signal? Where?

I will cling to this idea like a vine growing on the edge of a cliff until I’m proven wrong.