The Gentleman Bastards and the crew of the Red Messenger have become Poison Orchids, survived the perils of the Parlour Passage and made quite the impression on Port Prodigal. But can Locke persuade Drakasha and the pirate captains that it’s in their interests to fly the flag openly against Tal Verrar and risk the wrath of the Archon’s fleets?

This week sees Locke and Jean make up after their tiff, and Jean fall hard for Ezri Delmastro – a capable young woman with secrets of her own. In some ways, this book with its cliffhanger opening and rollercoaster of emotional conflicts feels like it’s more about relationships than heists. But the plot is finally gathering and all the pieces are moving into place…

 

1) We get to know the crew of the Poison Orchid – and get a glimpse of other crews ashore in Port Prodigal. What do you think of the pirates? Any particular favourites?

I really enjoyed the crews burying the hatchet (peacefully!) and getting to know one another. I always rather liked Jabril for his blunt competence and refusal to suffer fools; I liked him a bit more lying sprawled naked on his back musing at the things he’d been taught by his new crewmates the night before.

I’ll try anything once. Or six times, apparently.

I also love short-tempered Scholar Treganne: there should be a colourful short story (or fan fic) relating Drakasha’s trip to Nicora when she rescued Treganne from her cage – and, presumably, picked up Ezri…

However, I really enjoyed the interaction between crews ashore (although I think I’m reading it a bit differently now that I’ve engaged in a pirate LARP!) All those hands on weapons, bristling egos and tacit respect – the pecking order is important in Port Prodigal, and I loved Drakasha’s confident strut through town and domination of Chay Rance. The captains’ conference was a bit more civilised than I expected – they’re all clearly capable of ruthless violence to have ended up in command, but they’ve stayed in command because they’re wily. I wouldn’t like to get caught in a dark alley by many of their seconds, though!

2) Strange things happen at sea. How did you find the Parlour Passage?

Honestly, it wasn’t quite as creepy as I was expecting from the lead-in, but I may have had my imaginative filters turned right up in self-defence. On the other hand, it’s the most out and out supernatural thing we’ve seen since we joined the Gentleman Bastards: the Bondsmagi cast spells, but this seems to be some natural force that lures sailors to their deaths.

I was fascinated that it appeared to be a single figure stood on the reef – and that it knew everyone’s true name. How much do I want to know Locke’s embarrassing real name? SO MUCH. I’m also intrigued that the implication is that it’s getting worse – should we take that as a sign of elements on the move for future books? Or is just hungry because the pirates have been taking Trader’s Gate?

3) Rodanov has a double-agent aboard Drakasha’s ship. Any idea what Utgar’s orders might be?

Utgar’s orders seem primarily to be to keep an eye on what’s going on – he’s not subtle about his curiosity when they get to Tal Verrar! As to the thing Rodanov gave him to bring aboard… I couldn’t possibly comment, because I remember.

4) We end up where we started – back on the docks with a crossbow stand-off. Now you know how we got here, do you have any change of heart on where Jean stands?

It’s been a fascinating journey through our boys’ friendship, but they appear to have buried the hatchet. I don’t believe Jean would betray Locke, even in extremis. Yes, he loves Ezri, but I don’t think he’d sell Locke out to buy himself an antidote in order to be with her. So I’m certain he’s playing them.

 

Favourite moment of the week: for me, it has to be Jean wriggling along the deck to try and keep Ezri in focus as she tries to seduce him. OH MY HEART.

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

Discussion schedule: We’ll be reading roughly 3 chapters per week:

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