I’ll admit. It was with some trepidation that I decided to give the Gentleman Bastards books a shot.
You see, I started reading them earlier during medical school – during a particularly time intensive rotation – and I wasn’t able to get into them. I knew it was probably due to the ridiculous time demands of school and the extra studying, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
In the end, I decided, well screw it. I’m going to read them.
I figured, I had already bought them (I got all three as a trilogy during some kind of deal), and, as a medical student, I have a paralyzing fear of wasting money.
So, armed with some time off for residency interviews and plenty of layovers on flights and boring hotel nights, I gave it a shot.
And I am damn glad I did.
You can count me a brand new Scott Lynch fan.
The three existing Gentleman Bastards books are excellent, and I’d recommend them to anyone. I’m eagerly waiting the next installment.
Here are some things I think Mr. Lynch did exceptionally well, and a few things I wasn’t crazy about. Remember, even in great works like these, you have to look for the good and bad in order to improve as a reader (and thus as a writer).
Scott Lynch can bring a world to life in the way he describes it. He is among the top fantasy writers I have encountered in terms of the ability to truly capture the way a place might look or seem or smell or feel in words, and he has a knack for coming up with original metaphors and turns of phrase.
This may have been what I was most impressed with. His world building was great, but the way he created the world in the reader’s mind’s eye was truly exceptional.
Because this is something I know I need tow work on, I’m glad I got to see a master at work.
When you’re writing a character as witty as Locke Lamora, you better have some cleverness up your sleeve.
Well Scott Lynch certainly does. Lamora and other characters were a virtual treasure trove of witty cleverness, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once.
World and Character Building
So let’s ignore the obvious. The two main characters, Locke and Jean, are excellently done. They have depth, and you genuinely care about them as the story moves forward.
What impressed me was the degree to which other characters were fleshed out, even tertiary characters that didn’t have much of an impact on the story.
Lynch has a knack for hitting the sweet spot in providing enough backstory for a character – even a minor one – to feel well and truly fleshed out.
The same goes for his world building. Lynch developed customs and mannerisms and sayings and etc for every single part of the world we encountered – even at a great distance. It was beautiful, and I know I can take a real lesson in world building from him.
Stuff I Didn’t Love
I thought the pacing in books 2 and 3 (especially 2) was a little off.
The first book was incredible. The book slowly built to a beautiful climax, and it drew together all of the “flashback” sequences into that single moment. It was really brilliant.
The second book, however, spent a lot of time building and setting the scene… then the climax of the story sort of just happened. It felt like it was rushed through, and I was left feeling a little let down after the book spent so much time setting the scene.
The third book fell somewhere in between those two but was generally on the positive side.
As I wrote above, I thought Jean was a well fleshed out character. That said, sometimes he felt a bit like Lamora’s sidekick and without any real narrative “oomph” of his own.
This is a tough one for me to mention, because I love “past” sections and “flashbacks.”
But… I thought some of the past sections were immersion breaking. I would find myself wrapped up in the story, and then I’d end up hitting a new chapter and seeing it was an Interlude, and… well, I’d set the book down and call it a night.
It varied. Some were excellent. Some weren’t. In the first book, they almost exclusively seemed to actively contribute to the plot in real time, so I was more willing to tolerate it. In book 3, it added a lot regarding a relationship central to the book but was kind of slow. In book 2 it was just mostly boring and seemed to be a “let’s get you up to speed” kind of gimmick.
I didn’t love it.
So there you go. I loved the first three books of the Gentlemen Bastards series, and I hope Lynch is busy writing number four.
OTS Score: 9/10