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Literature / Red Seas Under Red Skies

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A pirate's life for me.

The second of seven novels in The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, by Scott Lynch. First published in 2007.

In the aftermath of the Falconer's crippling, Locke and Jean head to Tal Verrar for another, even bigger, con. They lie and cheat their way through a gambling house no thief has ever survived an attempt to rob, and in which cheating has a death sentence. They are deterred, however, by someone looking for their expertise - they are coerced into masquerade as pirates in the Sea of Brass. Meanwhile, they are being pursued by the last people any sane person would ever offend... the ruthless Bondsmagi of Karthain.

The book takes Lovable Rogue Locke Lamora and his Boisterous Bruiser partner, Jean, out of their usual comfort zone of con games as well as burglarly to the high seas. There, they must play Boxed Crook heroes forced to work for the Archon of Skagos as he wants them to befriend then betray a crew of infamous pirates. Jean soon falls in love with one and Locke struggles to find his way out of the jam they are in—to get back to a heist they already planned.

It is followed by The Republic Of Thieves.

This book contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Ezri, Zamira, Merrain and Selendri.
  • Action Mom: Zamira
  • Alliterative Name: Locke Lamora
  • Big Bad Friend: Jean pretends that he becomes this in the prologue.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though both Jean and Locke are poisoned, Locke tricks Jean into taking the antidote (they only have enough for one person), and Jean has lost the woman he loved.
  • Brains and Brawn: Zig-zagged. Jean is clearly the brawn, but also has the better book education of the two and is shown to plan and execute perfectly workable heists of his own. However, he lacks Locke's genius when it comes to planning, and is not as good at thinking on his feet when the plan deteriorates.
  • Carrying the Antidote: Though he only carried enough for one person.
  • Disappeared Dad: Paolo and Cosetta Drakasha's father is never so much as mentioned in passing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Locke brings this up when comparing the pointless cruelty of the game of Human Chess in Salon Corbeau to Camorr, where violence may be plentiful, but at least has some purpose. The condemned are subjected to brutal spectacle executions, but only when found guilty of a crime first, and Gladiators die in brutal blood-sports, but they chose to compete for gold and glory. Meanwhile the piece-actors in the chess game are unlucky peasants with no where else to go, subjected to brutal and humiliating punishments by the elite simply because they can. Camorr is certainly an unforgiving place to live, but even there you wouldn't get away with beating an innocent old woman half to death purely for your own amusement.
  • Exact Words: In Port Prodigal, Captains Drakasha and Rance decide to have a drinking contest to see whose crew gets to sit at the high table of the Tattered Crimson. The only terms are that the loser will be the "first on her ass" and that Rance has to take her first drink "Syrune-fashion". In other words, through her eyes as Drakasha throws her own drink in Rance's face shortly before socking her in the jaw and thereby knocking her to the floor. Drakasha then drinks from the other cup, but Rance's first mate protests that it wasn't a proper drinking contest. But as Locke, now a member of Drakasha's crew, points out, the terms were met:
    Locke: The test was a drink, and your captain's on her ass.
    First Mate: But—
    Locke: Your captain should've had the wit to be more specific and she lost.
  • Gender Is No Object: As with other Gentleman Bastard books, women are just as likely to be found in traditionally masculine roles like fighting and ship captaining. In fact, the tradition of the Twelve Gods requires at least one woman per ship, preferably an officer.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Requin achieves this effect by wearing eyeglasses that glow.
  • Horny Sailors: Zamira Drakasha's pirate crew has co-ed membership and a tolerant attitude towards liaisons of all kinds, including when one new recruit turns out to be another's Closet Key. Relationships only become an issue when one crewman realizes he's been tricked into taking a bunk next to a notoriously noisy couple.
  • How We Got Here: Every other chapter is a flashback to the events immediately after the first book.
  • I Call It "Vera": Jean's still got the Wicked Sisters
  • In Medias Res: Red Seas starts with Locke and Jean already deep into their plan to cheat their way up into Requin's office.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Jean must kill Ezri because she is burned so badly that she is dying in agony
  • Mama Bear: Zamira. Say so much as an unkind word to her children and you will not live to regret it.
  • Mercy Kill: When Ezri is horrifically burned, Jean puts her out of her misery.
  • The Nondescript: Locke is frequently described as skinnier than normal, but he's otherwise very nondescript.
  • Out-Gambitted: The Priori suffer this when they attempt to kill Locke after he helped get rid of Stragos
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The sacking of Salon Corbeau definitely qualifies.
  • Poison and Cure Gambit: Archon Stragos poisons Locke and Jean and demands their help in exchange for the antidote. Stragos's alchemist only creates enough antidote for one person before he dies and Locke and Jean are forced to flee the city. Later, Jean insists Locke be the one who drinks it, only for Locke to reveal he already slipped it into Jean's finished drink.
  • Serial Escalation: Locke's steals four purses, a knife, two bottles of wine, a pewter mug, a brooch, gold pins, earrings (while they were being worn), a bolt of silk, a box of sweetmeats, two loaves of bread, and the necklace of the mistress of the governor: she was wearing it at the time. "In the governor's manor.... In the governor's bed.... With the governor sleeping next to her.". In four hours. While he was half-drunk.
  • Shown Their Work: Played with when the Poison Orchid pirates attack another ship. As Cracked points out here, historically, quarter would be given if pirates flew a skull-and-crossbones flag, but no quarter would be given if they flew a crimson flag. In the book, they only fly a crimson flag with no mention of the other kind, but crew members are instructed to give quarter if asked and show respect if the other side drops their weapons, but slaughter them where they stand if they carry on fighting.
  • Tempting Fate: While pretending to be pirate captain, Locke and Jean sailing into a storm. Jean confidently asserts that Caldris, and experienced sailor and the only one on the ship who knows that they're faking, will be able to handle it. And then Caldris staggers in and dies of a heart attack.
  • Two-Faced: Selendri has terrible burn scars down one side of her face and body.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Requin is described as looking like a puppet put together by a particularly incompetent puppeteer. Selendri was drop-dead gorgeous before a botched hit on Requin left her severely scarred. Their relationship began well before the hit took place, and the two are completely and utterly devoted to each other.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Requin and Selendri are quite committed to each other after all these years and mutilations.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: Locke and Jean pretend to contract Slipskin, which appears akin to leprosy.