I saw this in the airport bookshop while I was in the middle of reading ‘The Final Empire’ by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve been waiting impatiently for it since finishing the previous book a year or so ago so I snapped it up right away. I think it is a testament to my self-control that I managed to finish the ‘Final Empire’ before starting this book.

At the start of ‘The Republic of Thieves’ Locke is still poisoned, following on from the previous book, ‘Red Seas Under Red Skies’. A bondsmagi unexpectedly comes to Locke’s rescue, and he and Jean are hired to interfere in an election in Karthain. Finally, in this book, we meet Sabetha, Locke’s beloved and fellow thief. I was always worried about Sabetha, as she was built up so much in the previous two books I wasn’t sure whether she would be able to live up to the hype. After finally meeting her, I have mixed feelings. I don’t like her, for one. She’s too complicated and mysterious. At the same time, I feel she’s a good match for Locke, who is a little unusual himself.

In the first two books Scott Lynch did a fantastic job making you care about characters who would usually be villains. Locke and Jean deceive and rob basically innocent people. I spend most of the books kind of wanting them to lose, but also wanting them to wind up ok. Overall, I like them. In this book, however, Locke and Jean spend the first 100 pages being very annoying. They do get better eventually, and Part 2 is much more enjoyable than Part 1.

Now onto the structure of the book. Every chapter the book flips between the present, and the election in Karthain, and Locke’s childhood and training with the Gentlemen Bastards. This gives you an opportunity to encounter characters who died in the previous books, but overall, I found this choice of structure very annoying. Just as you’re getting into the story it switches and you have to go through an alternative story with a different setting, characters and plot. Then you get into that one and it switches again. It makes for a very disjointed experience. This, as well as the focus on Locke and Sabetha’s relationship, means that Locke’s plots are a lot less complicated and detailed than in the previous two books. I found this quite disappointing as I thought the premise, fixing an election in Karthain, quite unusual and interesting.

At the end of this book we also learn something very unexpected about Locke’s past, which may or may not be true. I didn’t like this plot twist at all. It’s been so long between the books that I already have a strong image of Locke, which this twist kind of smashes. However it might not be true (we don’t know), and other people may like this twist a lot more than I did. Also, I don’t know whether Scott Lynch’s writing style has changed (it being 6 years since the previous book came out) or Karthain, with its neatly trimmed hedges just isn’t as interesting as Camorr, with its canals, elderglass towers and criminals everywhere, but I found this book had a lot less character than the previous books.

Overall, ‘The Republic of Thieves’ gets better as it goes along, though the structure of the story annoyed me. Despite eventually enjoying this book, I’m not sure I like where the series is going. I thought ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ > ‘Red Seas Under Red Skies’ > ‘The Republic of Thieves’, which is a concerning trend. Anyway, if you’ve enjoyed the rest of the series you’ll want to read this book just to finally meet Sabetha and to see what Locke and Jean are up to. I won’t be waiting impatiently for the next book to come out, as I was after finishing the previous book in the series, but I’m still glad I read it.