I cannot catch a break. Everything I have read lately is decidedly mediocre. This is the third in a series that started off with one of the great fantasy novels of all time with the Lies of Locke Lamora. If you haven’t read it, do so. Then safely ignore future books. The second is merely passable and the third is a waste of time. It’s like another The Name of the Wind, great premiere with no follow-through. Maybe both series will surprise me, but I don’t expect a sudden revival in either series. Must have something to do with living in Wisconsin.
As in previous books there are two timelines except that here I couldn’t care less what was going in the past here. I have said it before and I will say it again, the series was best when it was fantasy Ocean’s Eleven. Then he killed everyone off in the first book. Then he killed everyone new in the second book and wrote a pirate adventure with a small heist thrown in. The past timeline seems to be a combination of having his cake and eating it too by allowing him to use old characters that he killed off in the first book and some terrible fan service. It’s not a particularly interesting plot by itself and none of it really relates to present events. I guess it is supposed to flesh out the romance between Sabetha and Locke, but that deserves derision in a paragraph of its own.
So we come to the present. Locke is dying and being a whiny bitch about it and Jean is such a groupie for Locke that at any moment he was going to profess his undying love for his friend. I seriously questioned why I liked these characters enough to wait seven years for a new book in the series. Thankfully the pain ends with a Bondsmagi offering to heal Locke in return for them working as campaign managers for a kangaroo election in the Bondsmagi’s city. They accept and then we get like fifty pages of exposition about the Bondsmagi that attempts to explain their inexplicable place in the world. It doesn’t make a lick of sense and the irony is that at the end of the book they completely change the trajectory of their society, to in my mind, a more sensible one for dealing with the existential threat they believe in. Never try to explain the inexplicable. Better to let us craft a million reasons why something is as it is then to shred all of our rationalizations with the patchy truth.
Their opponents in this sham election are led by Sabetha, Locke’s old flame that he still burns a candle for. The election itself is surprisingly boring stuff, despite offering a lot of promise. Maybe the author though it a funny and insightful commentary that politics and positions never actually comes into play. Rather, both sides engage in bribery, corruption and pranks in order to secure votes for their party. Sadly, like the rest of the book, the pranks aren’t that amusing. I rarely even grinned in wry amusement during this book compared to some quite funny bits in the first book.
The second book got carried on the strength of Locke and Jean, but the third has no such buttress. Jean is a bit player in this book. I can’t really think of a notable thing he does in either timeline. Locke’s main advancement comes from his romance with Sabetha, but the romance is just awful. First, Sabetha is drawn very poorly by Lynch. Part of the problem is that almost all of her scene involve her interacting with Locke. For whatever reason Lynch has decided that Sabetha will, when around Locke, act like a shrill bitch who either nitpicks everything he says or just oscillates rapidly between liking and hating him for no discernible reason. It happens in both timelines, too. Which suggests that while Locke has matured, Sabetha has not. She is still a perfectionist mad that Locke is better at a few things than her and who has absolutely no idea what she wants in her life. Instead she craps on Chains (her and Locke’s mentor) and constantly pushes Locke away. It made me hate her. A lot. However, she is still better than that ho from The Name of the Wind, the name of whom appears to have been taken by the wind from my memory.
Also Locke is badly mishandled. In the past for instance he just goes up against Sabetha without a plan. Similarly during the election. Yes he has always had a good hand at improvisation, but in previous books he starts with a solid and intricate plan. Here he just derps around with really minor schemes. It’s not even clear why thieves were hired as campaign managers.
The other new character that gets developed is the Bondsmagi Pateince that heals Locke and brings him into the election. Except that she dies at the end.
Then there is the ending. The election was a diversion so that one faction of the Bondsmagi could kill another and then go into hiding from this existential threat I mentioned earlier. That’s it. Also the bad dude from the first book is back with us after seemingly having gone into a coma and lost his magical powers. Both problems are miraculously rectified. Unfortunately, not a very interesting villain, being of the Terminator mold of nigh invincibility and implacability when Locke really needs a Moriarty. Oh and Sabetha runs away again due to a minor revelation from the untrustworthy source of Patience. Here I thought we might at least get back to Ocean’s 3.
Given that the plot was a dud and the character advancement minimal and overall not being very enjoyable to read, I cannot stress how little regard I have for this book. That it took seven years to push out this meandering ode to mediocrity is quite infuriating. Then again, long gaps from an artist almost never bode well, be it in literature or music. I guess I should learn my lesson then.