The events of the first book left the reader in somewhat of a lurch. While appreciative of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen's sheer audacity in the face of the odds against them, one does feel saddened by the departure from Camorr. There is this feeling of unfinished business left behind in the city. The second book ostensibly takes place in Camorr's rival city state, Tal Verrar.
Lynch's talent in world building shows through again with this new city, which is markedly different from the claustrophobic, Venice-like Camorr. He manages to instill enough ambience and character to make the city seem like a place we know, or at least once knew. There are familiar truths mixed in with the fantastical descriptions that make everything you imagine feel on this side of real.
In this installment of the Gentlemen Bastards, the reader is shown how Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have made for themselves a nice little niche in the gambling houses of Tal Verrar, conning honest and dishonest gamblers. Their ultimate goal is of course to land themselves a big fortune, by cheating someone else out of theirs. Like always, the complete lack of anything resembling a conscience in the face of
their own benefit makes these characters all the more interesting. Especially when considering the slew of honest and noble characters that one finds in every other fantasy series.
Unlike the first book, where Lynch focused primarily on creating a world full of organized crime, territorial in their activities all bowing down to an overarching overlord; this book focuses on a more disparate element of the criminal world. Pirates. Through a sequence of events that sometimes prove to be both hilarious and devious, the Gentlemen Bastards end up on a pirate ship. And learn to be pirates. And then become pirates. The one area of stealing that they hadn't taken part in before during their rather rigorous training.
The story is somewhat less complicated than the last one, mostly because Lynch seems to have learned from his mistakes. Instead of haphazardly shifting between the past and the present, which he still does, he has learned how to pace each segment so that the book doesn't feel hacked together. There are more villains that Locke and Jean have to deal with and the villains themselves are refreshingly different and colorful in their own rights and the readers learn to hate them so. Added to this is the fact that the Bastards haven't really managed to escape their past, or the fact that deep down, they are still Camorri. They need revenge for every slight ever dealt to them.
Fantasy books are renowned for their size and heft. Lynch doesn't seem to need three hundred thousand words to tell a huge story. He has a sense of brevity, managing to tell a far longer story than one would have anticipated. And he leaves the reader once again with the feeling that there was so much more the characters could have done in Tal Verrar.
Read this book. If only because we need to one day create Monkeyshineology. Tom Cruise would donate his eyes to monkeyshine.