Welcome back to the Gentleman Bastards Read-along! We are in Lashain, where Locke Lamora is losing his battle with Stragos’s poison and taking solace in childhood memories of the canonical her. But is Jean desperate enough for a miracle cure for his friend to accept help from their bitterest enemies?

1) This week we finally – finally! – meet Sabetha. What are your first impressions? How loudly did you cheer?

Minions applaud madly and vibrate with joy
Minion levels of excitement over here. HELL YES SABETHA.

It’s been a long time coming, and I cheered loudly enough to bring the roof down. I found the Prologue a little awkward – not quite Lynch’s usual fluid style – but frankly it could have been written entirely in words of a single syllable once Beth walked on.

“Well, look here, you little shit. I’ve heard about you, so just shut your mouth and keep those reckless hands in your pockets. I swear to all the gods, if you give me one hint of trouble, I will heave you off a bridge and it will look like a bloody accident.”

I love that she is ruthless – unflinching, unhesitating, as harsh as she needs to be – and gives Locke a hard time right from the start. Yet when confronted by vulnerability, she has a deep vein of compassion: she yanks No-teeth around (and smacks him when he needs it), but she comforts Tam at the hanging and offers to intervene with the bullies for Locke.

And I love the dynamic: Locke is on the back foot from the start in a way we rarely see him as an adult, a little kid with a big reputation and an enormous crush on an older girl. Sabetha is self-possessed and just a smidgeon of a control freak (how dare he clutch purses without her orders!). And they misunderstand one another from the beginning. They’ve each got so much baggage, and re-reading this is a delight – because I can see what’s being laid up in stores for later.

I’ll admit I read the next Interlude by mistake, and she’s also just so breathtakingly competent. I love this woman. O HAI LADY IT’S SO GOOD TO MEET YOU.

 

2) Desperate times, desperate measures: making deals with a Bondsmage. Do you trust Patience? What do you think of the Bondsmagi’s form of entertainment?

I absolutely don’t trust Patience. Even if she hadn’t admitted to being the Falconer’s mother (whaaaaaaat) I would be entirely suspicious of any Bondsmage offering to save Locke Lamora’s life.

Do I think she had anything to do with the local thugs finding them? No, not at all. Do I think she may take some grim satisfaction in curing Locke in an unspeakably painful way? Well, it would take a saint not to be irritated by Locke Lamora even if he hadn’t tortured her son to insanity…

However, I am always delighted by storylines that acknowledge that insanely powerful groups are still riven by politics and egos – and that if they don’t find a way of channelling all the worst aspects of their humanity, they might accidentally destroy the world.

So I love the set-up with the election as a vehicle for proxy warfare – and given that I enjoy a front row seat for watching Locke get up to shenanigans, I have to admire the Bondsmagi’s taste in entertainment.

 

3) “Despising us must be rather like staring into a mirror” – how fair is Patience’s assessment?

Ouch, on the nose! There’s an instinctive rejection, but… actually, it’s not unfair. Locke accuses the Bondsmagi of killing anyone they like and fucking with the lives of those who treat them fairly for it – but if you replacing killing with ruining, she’s right. That exactly what the Gentleman Bastards do. The Salvaras (and their other marks) didn’t do anything to earn their place as targets – they were just rich, and the boys fucked with them to get their wealth and silence them about their loss. There was no remorse or guilt. It was their prerogative and their delight.

But I rather doubt Locke would see it that way, and I suspect Jean would cheerfully punch me for playing devil’s advocate!

And there’s another element which makes it entirely unfair: the lengths to which the Bondsmagi are prepared to go to fulfil their aims or their contracts. The Gentleman Bastards have boundaries and they’re slow to kill except in self-defence. The Bondsmagi destroyed Therim Pel – and everyone in it – in a firestorm to make a point, and while Patience suggests the Falconer went too far in some of his actions, wiping out the entire Camorri nobility was ‘part of the contract’.

No, Patience. Locke can still look himself in the eye when he looks in the mirror.

 

4) Back in Camorr, Locke gets his very own Kobayashi Maru. Is it a test or a lesson? What do you think of Chains’s education (vs the Thiefmaker’s and in general)?

I… can’t answer my own question. I totally asked this to hear what you all have to say. This fence is very comfortable, and I’m happy sitting on it. I think it’s both: to see how Locke responds – because everything Chains has seen so far makes him a star player, not a team player, and a sore loser too – so it’s a much-needed lesson in losing and sacrifice.

I am fascinated by Chains’s education. It’s so eclectic and he’s so well-connected. There’s got to be legroom for some of his back story – he’s a fascinating character in his own right, and we really only ever get hints. He rules his little roost by commanding love and motivating his little gang to try and impress him – and certainly not to disappoint him. It’s terribly effective.

I absolutely understand the Thiefmaker’s insecurity – he’s far less picky than Chains about his orphans, so there’s some bad eggs in the nest – but I’m never a fan of ruling by fear. Dog eat dog and do well or don’t eat teach nasty side-lessons alongside the main class. It feels like a time bomb, although I vaguely recall a passing reference in Lies to him eventually dying of natural causes.

 

I commented when I set the questions, but it bears saying again: oh the bromance is strong this week! I adore Jean Tannen. ADORE HIS KIDNAPPING ASS. And I love the talking-to he gives Locke. This is friendship. It’s pitiless and full of love.

 

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