In Espara, the game has run its course: can the Bastards stage a play and get away with murder? In Karthain, it’s time for truth and consequences: who is Locke Lamora – and what is Patience’s true game?

1. “Your friends … They sort of look to you to hold them together, don’t they?”
As Jenora observed in the last section, Jean is more than just a straight man for the Gentleman Bastards. And as I’ve recently realised, the proper title of this series is Gentleman Bastard – singular. Does anyone else ever wonder if there’s more in store for Jean Tannen than just a supporting role…?

Intriguingly, it’s plural in a number of translations, but I know that can be misleading. I do see Locke as our protagonist, but there’s room for Jean to muscle in on the spotlight. That said, I’m far more attached to Jean getting a happy ever after than Locke. The death or despair of Jean Tannen would be a hard thing to stomach. Or forgive.

 

2. After our speculation about it last week, we finally get to see all of the Bastards working together, toward the same goals, with no serious arguments to impede them. (Alas, only once and in the past!) What are your thoughts on how the play and Boulidazi’s final disposal are handled?

I feel like a missed a scene where Alondo and Locke changed roles. I remember that happening, but not why, and now I wonder what else I’ve missed this read!

The play brought tears to my eyes – Sabetha’s death scene! – but the denouement felt oddly low risk. The Bastards were a well-oiled machine, and even mixing in the Countess and the money collector it didn’t pack the same peril as the Grey King or the Archon. It does make me miss the joy of what the gang could achieve in its prime though.

 

3. “That poor man,” said Sabetha. “So nearly victimised by unscrupulous relic thieves.”
“We rejoice at his deliverance,” said Locke.
Cheeky bastard. So Locke’s final, grand gesture plays out in typical style, and even Sabetha fell for it… How do you feel about the way the election played out? And given everything that follows, do you have any thoughts on what it’ll all mean for Karthain in future?

It’s funny, from Locke’s reflection about lying with impunity (just before he spoke to Nikoros and assured him he’d been passing false information) I thought he hadn’t passed any false information through him, so I was mildly surprised (but only mildly, because we saw the set-up – I was expecting something with Lovaris).

A bit like the play, I find the election low-key. There’s a lot of improvised tinsel – distractions and irritations – but no big game, and I -miss- that vs previous books. Even the Lovaris play is no more than a last-ditch trick behind the lines in hope of an evenly matched result – without it, they had nothing.

Ultimately this feels more like a set-up book than a big adventure, with two strong novella lines rather than a tentpole plot and a background/context sideshow. Still a lot of fun, though!
I think Karthain is in for a world of trouble. The Karthani have no defences and no aptitude for learning new things. I don’t fancy the chance of many Konseillors in the face of hordes of refugees.

 

4. “She had to choose. I gave her information that led to a choice.”
Patience strikes again – as does the Really Important Question where this book is concerned. Do you think what she showed Sabetha, and everything it implies, the truth or a lie? Or both? And what do you make of Sabetha’s reaction either way?

I really don’t know what to think of Patience! She genuinely has foresight (unlike the Archedama of that name) as well as an eye to the long game. But I don’t know how to reconcile her claimed desire for revenge as a mother with what she revealed to the Falconer. Can she want revenge for her son and want her son dead? Apparently. Yet she won’t kill him herself unless he asks: either there’s some thread of maternal care there or she wants him broken and humiliated, begging for death.

I think Sabetha has a big set of matched luggage and Patience stitched her up to piss Locke off. Probably. Is the painting real? It could be anyone. It’s convenient. We have only Patience’s word that it’s Acanthus (in fact, only her word he ever existed!)

I still haven’t quite figured if Sabetha is so touchy over her hair, or if it’s Locke’s secrets and ambiguities that scare her. Either way, it feels like she’s got something driving her that we haven’t really got to see yet; otherwise it’s rather an over reaction.

 

5. “YOU did this to me…”
Dun dun DUNNNN! The Falconer is back, and he’s not wasting any time getting his old self put back together – literally or figuratively… Let’s have your thoughts on the final confrontation with Patience. And, if you have them, theories/predictions for what might come next…

I am a little irritated by the death of Patience, but it’s a neat way to preserve the ambiguity of Locke’s past. Now nobody knows…

As for the future: Camorr was shaken and the underworld toppled. Tal Verrar had its ruling class up-ended. Karthain has lost its protections. The Marrows are at war. The countries of the known world are seriously weakened, it seems – vulnerable. I’m going to guess that a Great New Threat will arise (allied to or because of or actually the risen Falconer), and Locke and Jean will be caught in the middle. We’ll see Zamira Drakasha again. And the Spider. And Sabetha.
And, of course, any other thoughts/theories/ponderances you might have on anything I missed!

A week after we talk about the Bastards’ conscience being a weakness, young Locke demonstrates his lack of conscience when it comes to safeguarding his friends.

‘We don’t have a corpse yet.’
‘Yes we do.’

…and it’s Sabetha who actually creates the corpse. What weakness, eh? Their weakness is their friendship, and it’s the enduring joy of the Sequence.

And at the end we finally get to it: we must be reading fantasy, we have a prophecy about our protagonist! 😉 But what does it mean? Or was it one last fuck you of a game from Patience?

Favourite moments:
The room reacting to Jean stoically getting his nose re-set on returning from his kidnapping.

Well then, now that we all know precisely how tough we’ll never be…

The horseplay (sorry, couldn’t resist) as the stolen horses from the Lashani coach turn into a sort of thieving pass the parcel around town.

Sabetha rappelling off the Oversight. HELL YES. 

 

Take a tour of our responses this week:

  • Wendy and Tiara at The Bibliosanctum
  • Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
  • Sarah at The Illustrated Page
  • and John in the comments 🙂

 

A round-up of our discussions: