Locke must convince the Capa he’s too sick to hunt the Grey King, so that he can pretend to be the Grey King when the Capa goes a-hunting. What can possibly go wrong? Surely even competence porn has limits? (ALL THE SPOILERS)

This week we’re hosted by Wendy at The Bibliosanctum. So let’s get stuck in…

1) Camorr is clearly a man’s world. One of the three female characters who could hold any sway was cruelly fridged, while another remains notably absent. Will Sabetha will swing in to save or seize the day? What are your thoughts on Doña Vorchenza’s role?

I don’t think Camorr is a man’s world. I think we’re wrapped up in a man’s story (or two men’s story, sorry Jean), but the city is pretty egalitarian.

The Right People have as many hard women as hard men (Nazca is Barsavi’s weak spot; she’s not weak; but yes, definitely fridging and yes that makes me unhappy); the Berangias are untouchable; and I rather like that Lynch goes out of his way to make it clear in speech and descriptions that the underworld doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to gender. We see numerous female guards, a female garrista, girls on Shades Hill and in the Half-Crowns, and there’s no suggestion that Jessamine is a black alchemist because a woman can’t be a ‘real’ alchemist (or that she and her daughter need a man to protect them) – she just chooses to work on the wrong side of the law.

The nobility we see are also pretty equal. I don’t get the sense that Doña Sofia’s marriage to Don Lorenzo is anything but a union of equals. The Bastards target Lorenzo initially because he has a habit they can take advantage of (and they have a healthy respect for Sofia’s alchemy); they’re pretty clear that he won’t do anything his wife disagrees with. Doña Vorchenza controls arguably the most powerful force in the city and she’s an old lady (and how much do I love that she’s a cranky, arthritic old lady who dresses in men’s clothes? LOTS). Also, you notice that Doña Sofia has her all figured out and isn’t afraid to stand up to her? I like that a lot too. I don’t think Lorenzo has that much spine.

But I also acknowledge that equal opportunities isn’t the same as equal representation. For all the excellent women in supporting roles, the Gentleman Bastards are all blokes and we get no feminine POV. Ultimately, this book is about Locke Lamora getting his comeuppance as Chains once predicted:

“Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

“Oh please,” said Locke. “It’ll never happen.”

…although, to be fair, Locke gets outplayed. His mistake is in not considering how much a Bondsmage may know about him and  thinking that the Grey King has shown his whole hand. Oops.

Would it have happened if Sabetha had been around? I… you know, I think it would. We don’t really learn a lot about Sabetha, but the Thiefmaker refers to her as the same sort of ‘special’ as young Locke, and Chains drops at least one comment implying that she’s ferociously good at what they do. But I don’t get the sense from this book that she’s smarter, wiser or more restrained than Locke, or that Locke is even more gung-ho in response to her absence. Can she swing in and save the day? That’s an interesting idea. I couldn’t possibly comment 🙂

 

2) Apprenticeships, fighting, farming–the Gentlemen Bastards have undergone some significant training (save for physiking!) and testing. What do you think of Chains’ teaching methods. Do you think he adequately prepared them for their future in Camorr?

Chains really did prepare them for almost all eventualities, didn’t he? It’s an impressive education, with those notable gaps: I’m a little surprised he didn’t try to give Locke at least some self-defence skills, although I like that Locke has a massive Achilles heel (other than Sabetha 😉

Until a Bondsmage showed up, Chains does seem to have given them a brilliant all-round education that has worked for them time after time. Even he doesn’t seem to have fully anticipated their success!

 

3) Pour out a forty for those lost. Share your thoughts on the passing of the Bastards and Barsavis.

Ah, Barsavi. The man who destroyed Camorr’s underworld and reforged it into a single kingdom with a vicious, clever prince at the head of it. The man who apparently got a little too comfortable. He both took the Grey King seriously enough to lock himself up on the Floating Grave, but also believed a stranger who told him the Grey King was now vulnerable and believed in his easy victory. When we realise just how completely rotten his organisation had become from the inside, it’s hard to think he ever had a chance though. I didn’t warm to Barsavi on this read-through though (and his sons are non-entities), so I don’t mourn him. Hats off to Capa Raza for being smarter than everyone else.

I do mourn Nazca. I would have liked to see a lot more of her; I’d’ve liked to see her and Locke wriggle out of their engagement. She was smart and fierce and she had great boots.

But oh, Calo and Galdo and Bug! Calo and Galdo are charming support, almost comedy sidekicks, but having their deaths happen off-page still smarts. You always want your heroes to get a classy, meaningful death, not to have their throats slit as they get home. But it’s still Bug that really hurts. On this read in particular, I got really attached to Bug: his youthful exuberance, his improvisations, his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for his brothers. I see him as Locke’s heir, not least for his determination to keep the gang together. I love that at Echo Hole before Barsavi arrives, it’s Bug who senses the Bastards need a morale boost and deliberately begins the litany.

Bug stepped forward and cleared his throat. ‘I’m only doing this,’ he said, ‘because I really love hiding in haunted Eldren buildings on dark and creepy nights.’

‘You’re a liar,’ said Jean, slowly. ‘I’m only doing this because I’ve always wanted to see Bug get eaten by an Eldren ghost.’

And it works, and it brings them together one last time, and oh ye gods and little fishes if I don’t stop typing now I’ll start weeping into my keyboard. BUG ❤

4) Everything in this book has been a series of long cons. Do you think taking the Capa’s throne is the end game for the Grey King? Or is there still more in store?

I’m certain there’s more in store. We’ve now discovered that the Spider is real, and she knows about the Salvara game. The last part of the book may be about her game with Locke and Jean (because hey, they’re not having a bad enough week), but I’m not sure Locke and Jean can keep a low enough profile – given the few resources they have left – to evade notice by the Falconer…

…also, Locke is feeling guilty and angry, and we know how the Camorri feel about revenge. Whatever the Grey King’s end game may be, Locke’s will involve ruining him in every way.

(again, I know what’s coming, but there’s a wealth of directions available from this point and some of those would have been equally and utterly intriguing. Maybe I’ll talk about them next week!)

 

Favourite moment this week: I, err, don’t really have a high point this week. This part of the book is dark and vicious and makes me sad. Actually, that’s not true: we have the flashbacks. And I am always mildly amused by the amount of damage Locke is willing to have inflicted on him when he knows it will let him win.

 

Take a tour of our responses to this first week:

Want to get in on the action? It’s never too late – just leave a comment below and get reading if you’d like to join us! We’ll be heading straight into Red Seas Under Red Skies in May.

Discussion schedule: