Gentlemen Bastards Series-3.5/5

Impossible is their specialty.

A strong first installment, which overshadows its sequels.


Camorr, an island city state, known for its glass towers, floating barges, and seaside revelries. A city ripe with opportunities. A city of law, protected by the Secret Peace, forbidding the city’s thieves from robbing its nobles. But one group refuse to submit, tricking various aristocrats into opening their vaults for the would be thieves, safe in the knowledge that “no one would ever admit to such foolishness.” Until one day a stranger appears, threatening to reveal all their secrets. Cornered, the thieves are forced to play along, buying time until they can find some way to turn the tables on their new master.

A truly enjoyable adventure, full of clever characters, dazzling the world with their bravado and insight. The writing is witty, the settings beautifully detailed, and the plots consistently complex.

Through a mix of clothes and props, and a fair amount of insight into the psychology of their targets, the protagonists manipulate others the same way a magician handles a deck of cards. Of course, there are inevitable complications. Some shadowy figure emerges to challenge the protagonists. The heroes are forced to work in the dark as they slowly unravel the antagonist’s plan.

With each complication, the challenges escalate, and the characters rise in turn, revealing their ever expanding repertoire of clever tricks, until the eventual “big reveal,” which manages to make sense of all the pieces that didn’t quite fit. It’s a wonderful story, but then the series has to do it again.

After a superb first installment, the series uproots the characters and kicks them out of the nest. In unfamiliar territory, the characters attempt to recreate their past success. But their efforts lack the elegance of the first book. The characters flounder, relying on new characters and resources to meet their needs. And once again the protagonists’ find their plans complicated by an unexpected master, who forces their cooperation while keeping them in the dark.

Under other circumstances, I would praise the later books as a solid read, but after the exquisitely layered setting of Camorr, every other location seems like a valiant effort to imitate that first and best part of the series. And while the details of each narrative are distinct, the underlying pattern remains the same, “an ambitious but very doable scheme” and the “unexpected meddling by powerful figures” feel too reminiscent of the first and best book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Lies of Locke Lamora
+Strong Characters
+Fun, Vivid Scenes
+Well Timed Twists that keep plot lively
+Very Well Developed Setting


Red Seas Under Red Skies


+Strong Characters
*Well Developed but Divided Plot Threads
-Clashing Aesthetics & Setting Locations
-Underlying Narrative Structure Too Similar to Lies of Locke Lamora


Republic of Thieves


+Strong Details
*Clever/Predictable Characters
*Interesting Premise, but Plot feels Underdeveloped
-Frequent Flashbacks Detract from Current Plot
-Specific Plot Points are jarring, adding unnecessary complications



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