The Book Itself: So are these the Bondsmagi? Or are they supposed to be costumed actors? The young Gentleman Bastards perform in a play in their childhood in this book, so it could be that. Either way, very dramatic
My Review: With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body—though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.
It seemed appropriate to review an installment in a series I’m reading amidst my Friday posts about reading series’…luckily I started reading the Gentlemen Bastard series after the first three books were already out. The Thorn of Emberlain will be out in July, so I really don’t have too long to wait before that one – insuring that I won’t forget 90% of the plot relatively soon after reading it, as I usually do.
But another day, another Gentleman Bastard book. This time we FINALLY GET TO MEET SABETHA. Sabetha, for those who haven’t picked up this marvelous fantasy series yet, is Locke Lamora’s legendary former lover. For the first two books, we have seen him dodge all mention of her, flinch at redheads who remind him of her, and be pulled out of a deep stupor simply because Jean mentions her name. She is a Big Deal.
But here’s the thing with Big Deals: with such a big windup, it becomes awfully hard for the Big Deal to live up to expectations. At this point, readers are expecting Sabetha to be the most gorgeous creature on the planet, a match in wit for both Locke and Jean (a Herculean task in itself), and yet she still has to be believable. If Sabetha were too good to be true (a Mary Sue, if you will), readers would have detested her. If she strayed too far on the other side of things – was too flawed, too boring, not witty enough, etc. – readers would have hated her as well. It’s an almost no-win situation.
Overall, I think she holds up. This book is structured as its predecessors were: present day action interspersed with interludes from Locke and Jean’s childhood. And this time it irked me more than it did in the first two books. It delayed our meeting of modern-day Sabetha because the interludes were setting up their childhood relationship, and Chains’ task for his young charges during the summer (and we get to see Galdo and Calo again! Yay!). I found the interlude storyline to be far less compelling than the present day storyline. I found myself not wanting to hear about how they first connected, but how they connect now.
And I will admit – when I heard that this book would revolve around Locke and Jean and Sabetha having to fix an election, I deflated a little. They’re going to have to make Locke extra witty and the characters really well-rounded to get me to like reading about a fictional political election, I thought. It’s no complex liquor ruse or plan to defraud a legendary gambling tower or pirate ship race, that’s for sure (tricks and schemes Locke and Jean have pulled off in previous installments). But the two sides liven it up: Locke and Sabetha attempt to sabotage each other in increasingly ridiculous ways, all while trying to reconnect on the side (can someone take me on an elaborate dinner hoisted atop a skyscraper? Please?!).
And then there’s the fact that this is all for the Bondsmagi. You know, like that one bad guy from the first book who was pretty terrifying and powerful? Yeah, this is the rest of the family. They’re still all-powerful. They’re still scary as hell. And Locke and Jean become indebted to them. Grrrrreatttt…
And by the end, a big reveal about Locke’s supposed heritage (you know, before he went by Locke Lamora) had me reeling. I mean…that’s not really who he is…right? And way to ruin things when they finally seemed to go well for everyone!
I won’t spoil that bit. This time around I wasn’t as onboard with the childhood interludes. They kind of soured my impression of the present day scenes, which I wanted more of (despite the fact they were really about a political election). Sabetha is a strong character, but I haven’t had as much time to get to know her as I have for Locke and Jean, so I’m still wary. Looking forward to the fourth installment in July!
My Grade: B