The third volume of the Gentleman Bastard series threatens to change the entire course of the series. It is a book which contains a shocking revelation about Locke Lamora's past which, potentially, could alter everything we know about the character. I'm not a big fan of this revelation and the only reason I'm not upset about is due to fact that, being a book about con games, it's entirely possible everything revealed was a lie. So, of course, I'm going to have to purchase the next book to find out if it's true.
The premise is Locke Lamora is suffering from poison he ingested in Red Seas Under Red Skies. Jean, his partner in crime, is desperate to find a cure and willing to do anything. The solution comes in the form of Locke and Jean's mortal enemies: the bondsmagi. Introduced in The Lies of Locke Lamora, the bondsmagi were behind the troubles our heroes faced in the previous volume. One of the bondsmagi's leaders, going by the name Patience, is willing to help Locke recover if he and Jean agree to fix an election on the wizards' island of Karthain. This would be small potatoes for the world's greatest con men if not for the fact they're opposed by the only thief and liar equal to them: Locke's ex-girlfriend Sabetha.
Sabetha has been built up for two books as the love of Locke's life and it's a hard task to make us believe she's equal to the task. Much to my surprise, Scott Lynch decided to go a different way. Sabetha is every bit as capable, intelligent, and charming as Locke. She could easily be the star of the series herself. It's just Locke can't see her that way and continually sticks his foot in his mouth due to the inability to see her as anything but his one true loveTM. Sabetha would very much like to be recognized as the world's greatest thief but, beside Locke, she's also regulated to being his supporting cast.
And can't stand that.
It's an interesting bit of metatextuality since, by nature, Sabetha is a member of Locke's supporting cast. Despite this, she insists on being taken on her own terms. When she refers to her past adventures, they often take on the same sort of life Locke and Jean's do. I, for one, would love to have a Sabetha novel.
Much of the book has a Lupin the Third style comedy-of-errors where Sabetha and Locke keep trying to one up the other in terms of rigging the election. The rest of the book involves an extended flash-back to the heroes joining a troupe of Shakesperian actors with a complete jackass for a troupe master. Needless to say, Locke and Sabetha dig themselves a very deep hole trying to help their (literally) indebted friends. I liked both parts of the book but wish they'd been separate volumes since they don't really fit together well.
The book is significantly more lighthearted than previous entries in the series. After the bloody mess of the first and second books, this is a welcome emotional rest. Favorite moments include Locke and Jean getting knocked out and dumped on a luxurious boat out to sea in order to keep them from the election, Locke walking in on Jean while he's losing his virginity (which is a simple but hilarious gag in context), and disposing of a dead nobleman who has 'accidentally' walked into a pair of scissors.
In conclusion, The Republic of Thieves is an improvement over the last volume but the twist leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There's also the return of a villain I'd hoped was over and done with. Nevertheless, I'm going to be purchasing the next volume the day it comes out. That, alone, should tell you Scott Lynch has got his hooks into me.