Feb. 2nd, 2014

seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
Being the adventures of a group of elite thieves in a fantasy world, out to steal from the rich and corrupt and give to—themselves, really, but they probably stimulate the economy with all their bribes and whatnot, so there.

1.      The Lies of Locke Lamora

Probably my favorite of the books thus far. The central caper is fun, there’s a great villain at the heart of it, and the flashbacks are interesting in themselves and work well to establish character.

My one complaint is that the book makes a point of Mystery Boxing the villain’s motives and power. “Who is this guy? How is he doing all this? What does he want?” Then it turns out he just has a lot of money and is out for revenge. Yeah, don’t know why we needed the build-up for that.

2.      Red Seas Under Red Skies

Here we hit a stumbling block. The story starts in media res with a shocking twist, then goes back to show how we got to this point. Only when we get to the twist, the resolution turns out to be complete bullshit out of one of those Silver Age Superman comics where the cover promises that Superman is going to snap Lois’s oxygen line in space so she blows up like in Total Recall, but nope, he just had to unplug it for a minute because it got tangled, but now he’d patched it right back in and she’s fine. It’s that unsatisfying. If they had just started the story at the beginning and not bothered trying to fake the audience out, I wouldn’t feel so insulted, but seriously, that’s some major bullshit.

Otherwise, okay story. Again, our heroes are pulling a job when suddenly they get interrupted by a villainous plot, so now they have to both keep the villain happy and pull off the job. So there’s a little “more of the same, but bigger and louder” sequelizing here. In Lies, it was better integrated, here it’s like they just forget about the first narrative for a couple hundred pages to be pirates, then come back and go “Hey, everyone still here? Can we still rob you?”

Also, I thought this lacked a villain as good as Lies had. There are basically a number of corrupt, ruthless naughties jerking out heroes around, so when one of them turns out to be The Guy and gets his harsh comeuppance, it’s like “oh, he was the Big Bad. Okay. He didn’t really seem to do that much to the heroes. Yeah, someone died, but it was barely his fault. Anyway, rot in hell, monster! That’s what you get for being maybe slightly worse than every other nobleman in this book!”

3.      The Republic of Thieves

This one I actually disliked. The whole series, we’ve been hearing about how our hero Locke is obsessed with this lost love of his, Sabetha, so here he finally meets her! Though there hasn’t really been any mystery built up around here—she was just this other thief he fell in love with.

But anyway, the thing is, this book has no stakes whatsoever. Locke starts the book in a jam when his old enemies the Bondmagi show up and tell him they have this election in their hometown. One group of Bondmagi hires a dude to handle their side, the other hires their own dude, and the two dudes try to lie, cheat, and swindle their way into winning the election. And Sabetha is the other group’s dude! Oh noes! Former loves, now aligned against each other!

But whoever’s elected won’t have any real power or make any difference. Locke gets a cure for his condition whether or not he wins; as long as he puts in a good-faith effort, he’s free and clear. So, in short…

Locke: I’m dying!

Bondmagi: We’ll save you, but you must participate in this game of tennis!

Locke: What happens if I lose?

Bondmagi: Nothing.

Locke: What happens if I win?

Bondmagi: Nothing.

Locke: Well, I’m a bit of a brat, so let me hem and haw over it for a while. (angsts) Okay, I’ll do it.

*Locke plays tennis for six hundred pages*

Locke: Done!

Bondmagi: By the way, that entire tennis match was a distraction from much more interesting events that you weren’t involved in at all. Here are some disturbing revelations about your past, since all fantasy heroes need to be involved in an Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny. Oh, and your sexual tension with your girlfriend is as yet unresolved.

Locke: Wow, what a waste of the readers’ time. Anything we could’ve done to make this book even longer and more uninvolving?

Sabetha: Hey, Locke, remember that time we put on a play?

Locke: Yes, it was incredibly boring. (thinks about it for three hundred pages)

Now part of me can admire what the author is trying to do—by getting rid of obvious stakes like, we know Locke isn’t going to die, we can focus on, like, the emotional stakes. But that’s the thing. I negative-care about Locke’s relationship to Sabetha.

Now you know me. I like female characters. I read them, I write them, yes, yay ladies. But Sabetha is a stone-cold bitch. You can fucking quote her.

Sabetha: Hey, Locke, remember that time our foster father rescued us from lives of slavery and prostitution to live a comparatively privileged lifestyle, as well as teaching us morality so we wouldn’t be like the nobles who oppress us?

Locke: Yup!

Sabetha: What a fucking asshole.

Locke: So, hey, do you love me?

Sabetha: Yes. (beat) But I want to be able to choose whether I’m in love with you. (beat) Hey, Locke, know how everyone looks to you as the leader because you’re universally respected, great at your job, good at making plans, smart, compassionate to your followers, and just an all-around good leader?

Locke: Yup.

Sabetha: You’re such a fucking asshole. I should be the leader! Me, me, me! (beat) Hey, Locke, remember that time that I abandoned you and your friends, then you all ended up being rich and successful at your chosen careers until a completely unprecedented act of evil left you penniless and mortally wounded?

Locke: Yeah.

Sabetha: Told ya so, told ya so, I told you so! Unlike me, who went her own path and ended up—equally as broke and in the exact same circumstances. Hunh. (beat) Hey, Locke, remember all those friends of ours who died?

Locke: Uhh… I’m not going to like this one, am I? But yes.

Sabetha: Their deaths were totally your fault, you fucking asshole.

Jean: Getting easy to see why you’ve been obsessed with this woman for three books, bro.

So yeah, Locke’s undying love for this woman since literally childhood doesn’t seem romantic or sweet, it comes across as pathetic and creepy. And towards the end, the book does seem to point toward taking a negative outlook on whatever their ship name is, but it seems like it’s just a slight hiccup on the road to a Locke/Sabetha endgame.

Anyway, the author does the by-now-traditional “two capers, no waiting” but here it’s with flashbacks to a pretty boring sequence of Locke and co. having to put on a play. The only involvement this has with the plot is showing how Locke and Sabetha fell in love. Yawn. And the main plot, with Locke having to rig an election and using every dirty trick he can think of, sounds like it could be fun, but it ends up mostly just being Locke and Sabetha on the ol’ merry-go-round, angsting about how they want to be together, but they can’t, and their emotions, and how can I trust you after you hurt me, and Jesus Christ, people, YOU ARE NOT A GOOD COUPLE. BREAK THE FUCK UP. YOU ARE FULL-ON ADULTS BY NOW, YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE. Sabetha, you’ve dated other people, you should’ve found someone who’s more of an asshole than Locke, since that’s apparently what you’re into. Marry that guy. Locke, you’ve never dated anyone but Sabetha. THIS SHOULD BE A RED FLAG FOR BOTH OF YOU. One of you, please be a fucking grown-up, kill this relationship, and move the shit on. Goddamn.

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