Locke and Sabetha get a lot of practice at being star-crossed lovers this week. In Espara, Baron Boulidazi unwittingly comes between his ‘noble cousins’ at every opportunity. In Karthain, Patience would rather the would-be lovers kept their mind solely on the Five-Year Game. Will the pair ever find a time and a place to put aside their tempers and pursue their passion?

1. We see a lot of distractions but no sign of a master plan. Is Patience right to think our tricksters haven’t applied themselves or do you think they’ve all got something up their sleeves?

I honestly can’t remember the finer points of this book! It feels like Locke and Jean have been on the back foot from the start, and have very little but rapidly-concocted tinsel to throw at Sabetha. On the other hand, Locke practices improvisation as an art form – so I’m assuming he has got an idea bubbling away that will impress in the final act (or that has been concealed from us by sleight of hand in amongst all his random demands of Nikoros). I hope so, as Sabetha has had plenty of time to sew up the election and I have no doubt she’s got more traps waiting to be sprung…

 

2. Sabetha thinks Chains inflicted the Bastards with a conscience and is afraid it makes her soft. What do you think?

I am fascinated by Sabetha’s view on the Bastards’ childhood. Locke can’t help but take her comments as an attack, but she makes some interesting points. I think she’s got harder edges from being a loner – the only girl in the gang, the one who felt she always had to try harder, the one who had to hide her hair from everyone, the one who left Camorr to make her own way. She’s not used to having someone to guard her back, and so I can understand that her inclinations to mercy would chafe at her sometimes.

And… I can relate to her worry here. As a woman working in male-dominated senior management environments, I’ve frequently second-guessed myself in much the same way; but it’s self-defeating. Know yourself, embrace your strengths, manage your weaknesses, move on. Don’t make yourself someone you’re not. It might get you what you want, but I don’t believe it would make her (or me) happier.

Ultimately I can’t possibly criticise having a conscience or a found family – they are two facets of these books that are a great delight for me. Do I think the Bastards have a conscience? Yes. Do I think it makes them weaker? Only in comparison to monsters. They’re all capable of some pretty cold action when they think it’s needed. And that finely-developed sense of fairness they share tips over into a capability for vicious reprisals, so how soft are they really?

 

3. Baron Boulidazi shows his true colours and they’re not pretty. Did Sabetha (and Locke) underestimate him? For first time readers: how can the Bastards handle this twist? For second time readers: any comments on the narrative choices here?

I think there’s some innocence showing here. Sabetha and Locke both know what self-indulgent, arrogant people in positions of power are capable of in theory, but this is their first real attempt to play one. I don’t think it’s underestimating, so much as less practice at considering the possibilities. They’re both confident in their own abilities to manage him (or certainly in Sabetha’s abilities to play him), but they forgot to stop and think through what else he might get up to, or ensure that the twins had him in hand. Don’t leave a mark room to improvise! To be sure, they had a significant distraction 😉

And he’s awful. I’d forgotten the narrative swapped to his point of view briefly to underscore the point. I’m left with the impression (and again, I don’t recall) that Jenora fought him off, and I approve of the choice to not show the scene; to not have the rape succeed; and to let her stab the nasty little would-be fucker. I do recall vaguely how they deal with him, so I’ll leave it at that for now!

 

4. Lamor Acanthus. Do you believe Patience’s story or is this a cracking confidence trick? If so, who do you think it is aimed at?

Oh my. One of the central questions of the Gentleman Bastards: who is Locke Lamora? Honestly, I think Patience is playing with Locke and Lynch is playing with us. Epic fantasy revolves around youths from undistinguished backgrounds having a grand destiny, ability or inheritance that changes their circumstances and lets them do the thing (whatever thing needs doing). I enjoy that the Gentleman Bastards are just well-educated orphan thieves, and I really hope that that is all Locke is.

It looks very much to me like Patience and Coldmarrow are playing Foresight to undermine the Falconer’s faction. She’s being distracted by this fiction of Lamor Acanthus (to what end? I don’t know) – confronting Locke with the ‘truth’ is a brilliant set-up, and has the side benefit of disrupting his distracting relationship with Sabetha. Win/win for Patience.

But here’s the thing: I’m happy to believe that there was a Lamor Acanthus trying to achieve exactly what Patience says, and that he caused the Catchfire plague. Either Locke knew him, or the backlash of magic left his name imprinted on Locke’s mind. And I loved that Patience had thought of the weaknesses – obviously Lamor Acanthus wasn’t his real name, otherwise the Bondsmagi would have been able to control Locke as they can control Jean. It all fits with what we know. The best cons stretch the truth; that’s why they’re credible.

But I don’t believe Locke’s a Bondmage. I do wonder who Sabetha really is – she knows, but she’s as secretive about her life before Shade’s Hill as he is!

 

5. The universe seems determined to disrupt Locke and Sabetha’s courtship! Do you think they can (or should) have a happy ever after?

Aw, I’m a sucker for a happy ever after. I’d happily read a book about them being teamed up and running games together. I’m not sure they could ever live quietly together – Sabetha has a fierce temper, and Locke doesn’t always think hard enough before he opens his mouth – but I’d like to think they could work things out.

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

 

Discussion schedule 

We’ll be reading roughly 100 pages per week: