My answers to this week’s Locke Lamora questions, this time from My Awful Reviews:
1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage’s powers?
I’d rather see them getting around the Bondsmage than getting around the Bondsmage’s powers. I like the magic portrayed here: rare, very powerful, but also clearly defined, and with a good in-universe reason why it’s as rare as it is. Because it’s powerful and clearly defined, getting around it is like a logic puzzle: you find loopholes in the magic’s rules, rather than defeat the magic head-on. (I’m reminded of Asimov’s robot stories here.) In fact, that’s what Barsavi does: he learns ‘the Grey King’ can’t be killed by blades, but nothing stops him from drowning.
Could Locke defeat the Bondsmage in a similar way? Possibly. But then again, Barsavi only succeeded at this because the Bondsmage let him, and anyway, that’s not Locke’s style. His heroic skill is manipulating people rather than figuring out impersonal problems. I want to see him trick the Bondsmage, or trick the Grey King.
2. Not a question, but an area for rampant speculation: If you want to take a stab at who you think the Grey King might be, feel free to do it here.
I have a hard time believing he’s any character we’ve met in a different guise. It could be he’s the Spider, the Duke’s chief of secret police. His being able to afford a Bondsmage narrows down the options substantially.
2.5 (since 2 wasn’t really a question) Anyone see the Nazca thing coming? Anyone? Do you think there are more crazy turns like this in store for the book? Would you like to speculate about them here? (yes, yes you would)
I didn’t see the Nazca thing coming at all, and it was a great piece of misdirection to set up the Nazca/Locke arranged marriage plot before brutally cutting it short like that. Any other crazy turns…well, the nature of these turns means they’re hard to predict, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Don Salvara game and the Grey King business turned out to be related in ways we don’t yet know about. The book might end up seeming disjointed otherwise: my feeling right now is that it has a sudden change of plot half way through (the Don Salvara game is dropped and the Grey King takes centre stage), which is a structural weakness.
3. When Locke says “Nice bird, arsehole,” I lose it. EVERY TIME. And not just because I have the UK version of the book and the word arsehole is funnier than asshole. Have there been any other places in the books so far where you found yourself laughing out loud, or giggling like a crazy person on the subway?
This is a great piece of setup–time pauses in that moment of confrontation and we have a flashback explaining why you have to be polite to Bondsmagi, so Locke’s line both subverts the preceding flashback and releases the tension that had built up due to the pause.
What else? I find a lot of the Bastards’ banter enjoyable, especially when it’s semi-in-character, such as when Lukas Ferwright lamented that he was entirely fictional. Bug being rolled around in a barrel was funny. There haven’t been that many laugh-out-loud moment for me, but then I tend not to laugh out loud at books.
4. By the end of this reading section, have your opinions changed about how clever the Bastards are? Do you still feel like they’re “cleverer than all the rest?” Or have they been decidedly outplayed by the Grey King and his Bondsmage?
Unless they have some plan they’re keeping secret from the reader, they’ve been outplayed. It didn’t come as a surprise that the Grey King’s plan involved Locke being killed in that encounter–if he’s intended to survive, why not go himself? I’m kind of surprised that Locke didn’t think about that. Then again, he was out of options: it was either go along with the plan, or flee Camorr, perhaps with the Bondsmage on their heels.
If he survives now (and of course he will, because the book’s named after him) it’ll be through dumb luck. Either the Bondsmage will save him for his own mysterious purposes, or the other Gentlemen Bastards will recover the barrel and rescue him before he quite drowns. In the latter case, he’ll have survived due to Barsavi’s carelessness in not making really totally sure his enemy is dead. Either way it’s due to no skill of Locke’s.
But that’s appropriate at this point in the story. This may be the lowest point. Act II needs to end with our heroes apparently defeated, so we can enjoy their victory in Act III.
5. I imagine that you’ve probably read ahead, since this was a huge cliffhanger of an ending for the “present” storyline, but I’ll ask this anyway: Where do you see the story going from here, now that the Grey King is thought to be dead?
I haven’t read ahead, but I’d guess that the Grey King now moves behind the scenes to seize control. Alternatively, he could pull off a resurrection trick to strike even more fear into the underworld, and use that to take control.
If he does the latter, and moves openly, then Locke now has a means of getting at him. If he impersonated the Grey King once, he can do it again. So Locke sows confusion: there are two Grey Kings, and no one is sure which is real. Locke defeats the Grey King through deception.
And then, finally, they wrap up the Salvara game.
6. What do you think of the characters Scott Lynch has given us so far? Are they believable? Real? Fleshed out? If not, what are they lacking?
The characters are fine, and they’re fleshed out as much as they need to be. It sometimes feels a little too straightforward–they’re thieves who worship the thieves’s god and spent their youth training in thief school, which sounds like an uninspired D&D character backstory–but Lynch pulls it off by giving them individual traits on top of this.
7. Now that you’ve seen how clever Chains is about his “apprenticeships,” why do you think he’s doing all of this? Does he have an endgame in sight? Is there a goal he wants them to achieve, or is it something more emotional like revenge?
This is still the big mystery to me. Chains is spending a lot of effort into his legacy, ensuring that the Gentlemen Bastards continue after his death, when he could be spending his last years enjoying the fruits of his ill-gotten gains. He is, after all, sitting on an enormous pile of money. My best guess now is that he’s doing it out of a sense of duty, or because he finds the idea of his work living on after him more satisfying than cashing in his luxuries–but it’s possible he has a more specific goal in mind.