I really wanted to fall in love with this book as much as I did the first one, The Lies of Locke Lamora
. Unfortunately however, that wasn't quite the case in the end. Don't get me wrong, I did really enjoy this book and it was nice to continue the adventures of Locke and Jean in an entirely new environment. But this book just wasn't up to quite the same standard as the first one.
After a quick flash-forward en-media-res prologue, we reunite with Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen 2 years after the events of the first book. They're now living in an entirely new city, Tal Verrar, and they're up to the usual tricks. They are in the middle of their latest con and everything is going to plan. Except all of a sudden it isn't and once again Locke and Jean have to think fast and try to find a way out of it with their lives. The first third of the novel is also punctuated with brief 'reminisinces', detailing what happened in the two years between the novels and fallout of what happened in Camorr.
I loved the first quarter-ish of the book. I loved reuniting with Locke and Jean in the middle of a con and seeing them doing what they do best, while at the same time learning about what happened to them immediately after leaving Camorr at the end of the last book. Tel Verrar was interesting and it was nice to see a new place, but it was lacking something at the same time. In the previous book I completely fell in love with Camorr. It was just so fully realised and well thought out and it just leapt out of the pages and came alive. But Tel Verrar didn't. It didn't have the same depth. Maybe that was intentional but it just felt like bad or lazy writing to me. And when Locke and Jean returned to Tel Verrar in the last tenth of the book I found it hard to remember specifics of the environment or culture of the place.
Which brings me to my next point. The large middle two-thirds of the book. For the first quarter of the book it was quite Oceans Eleven-esque, like the first book was. But then it was like Lynch suddenly changed his mind and decided he wanted to write something Pirates of the Caribbean-y and twisted things in the story to fit so Locke and Jean could go be Pirates for a while. At first this change of pace and direction was really confusing. I'll admit though that as this section went on (and particurlarly after the arrival of the Poison Orchid
and the introduction of Zamira and Ezri) that I started to love this. But it was still a jarring change and when Locke and Jean returned to Tel Verrar at the end to conclude the business introduced in the first third of the book I found it hard to care or remember all the details about it. It was just a jarring change of pace and I wish that Lynch had chosen one idea and stuck to it and then focused on the other in another book. Or that the two sections flowed better and meshed and melded rather than it being one then the other.
It was nice to Locke and Jean continue to grow in this book however. Whilst it was easy to pick them up again and see that they are still essentially the same people from the first book and Lynchs writing of them makes them read like the same people. But as the book went on it was obvious that they were changed. The events of the first book has emotionally scarred them and left a bit of a rift in their relationship, which continually impacts what's going on in the present. This book introduces a whole host of new characters and whilst many of these new minor characters are fairly two-dimensional I did fall in love with some of the new major characters, especially Ezri and Zamira. And when Ezri dies towards the end of the book... it was just like Calo and Galdo and Bug all over again. I was heartbroken. I mean, I saw it coming but still...
Overall, it was a good book, but not as good as the first. There were more dilemmas and less action this time around, which while not necessarily a bad thing itself didn't help when it was just difficult to keep track of all the various plot twists and problems. Many of the twists (particularly at the end) just didn't really seem to make much sense either and I'm not entirely sure what one or two them mean at all. Also the change of plot from what was essentially Oceans Eleven to Pirates of the Caribbean was jarring and confusing. Having said that, I look forward to the release of book 3 and more adventures with the Gentlmen Bastards and seeing how Locke and Jean escape their next and ongoing problems!