The Republic of Thieves

My love for Scott Lynch and his Gentleman Bastard series is never ending. This is my second time finishing the three novels that has been published (The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves) and I’m eagerly awaiting 2016 and the release of The Thorn of Emberlain. Until then I’ll busy myself with rereading the first three books yet again.

Locke and Jean has just about come out of the mess they made in Tal Verrar, but they’re far from intact. They leave with one big, but not desirable gift; the fatal poison still in Locke’s body. Jean does what he can, but no physician can cure Locke and it looks like he will face Aza Guilla once and for all, when help comes from the most unlikely and most untrusted place of all. The Bondsmagi of Karthain. Accepting the help will make Locke and Jean bound to a political game playing out in Karthain and putting themselves in awful danger of whatever cruel plan the magi has in their back pocket for the two of them. But declining will mean certain death for Locke.

I loved the first two novels about Locke and Jean and their crazy adventures and The Republic of Thieves did not let me down. Mixed with the present story of Locke, dying by poison and having to choose to either trust the people he distrusts most in the world, or leaving Jean all alone, is the story of the five young Gentleman Bastards sent off to Espara by Father Chains to learn to work together as a group by pretending to be actors.

As always, Lynch is sharp in his writing and creates vivid stories lush with color, smells and feelings. The topics arising is serious, but entwined with humor and sarcasm that I have come to associate with Lynch. He is brutal at times and cracks me up at others. His characters are brilliantly made and shines from every page. They are strong, with an arsenal of problems that makes them incredibly real. Never have I read a story I fell in love with as swiftly as I did with Locke and Jean’s and never have I encountered characters as finely made as all of the ones hidden inside the pages of this series. It has everything I look for in a novel; beautiful covers, fantastic writing, wonderful world-building, strong characters and enticing titles. This series is one of my all-time favorite and I can’t wait to continue on the journey with Locke and Jean. I recommend this to anyone.

Ink and Bone

When I first heard of Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone, all I understood was that it took place in a world where books was the most important thing. Big libraries existed in every city and nothing was as important as ink on paper, as reading, as knowledge. It sounded nothing like any other book I’ve ever heard of and I was, of course, very intrigued.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a book smuggler, living in London. He loves to read but does not have a knack for smuggling like his father, or his brother, does. Jess is sent to Alexandria, the ancient city with the biggest library of all, to be a postulant and try to get a place of work at the Library. His father sees this as a great opportunity for Jess to spy on the Library and possibly even smuggle out some books. But for Jess this is a clean start away from the hard world he grew up in, a chance for him to finally be around people who thinks the same as he does. But the road to work at the Library is long and lined with dangers Jess can’t fathom in his darkest dreams. It’s not a question of will he get a job as much as will he survive?

I thought right away that this seemed like a promising story. I’ve read a lot and I’ve read a lot of novels that remind me of other novels. Ink and Bone is very different indeed, since it revolve around books. For someone who reads much and loves books, this seems to be the perfect story. Almost too good to be true. And for me, it was.

I did like that the novel was all about the books. Nothing matters more than the books. Not other things, not other objects and certainly not lives. The most important thing is to protect the books, because they can’t protect themselves. But after a while this got too out of hand, the author’s intent I’m sure, but it was almost annoying reading about books like there was something wrong with them. Like it was their fault the world looked like it did. I am certain, however, that Caine meant to not to place the blame on books, but on people and how human beings handle and use power.

Caine painted a story about a young man who didn’t fit in with his family and was sent away because of it. He found himself a place in Alexandria, with its great library still standing, were he met kindred spirits. The world in which Jess lives is much different from the one we live in today. It takes place in the year of 2025 but it is vastly different.

I would like to explain what the map looks like, were the boarders go and generally how Jess' world is built and functions. But I have no idea, since Caine didn’t mention that very much at all. Maybe it’s not important to the story or maybe this is something that will appear in the sequel, but regardless, it was something that bothered me. All I found out was that Alexandria is something of the capital of the world, that England is at war with Wales, that America is not flourishing and that Austria no longer exists. But what of everything else? What does the world look like? How has the world turned into what Jess lives in today? It bothered me not knowing and that made me enjoy the novel a little less.

Other things that made me go from curious and interested to merely shrugging my shoulders while reading was at first, the chapters. They were so long. The first chapter didn’t even start until thirty pages in and then it lasted for another thirty. I had a hard time getting into the story, both adjusting to the way Caine built the novel and to the way she wrote it. It wasn’t writing that I enjoyed, at times it sounded good but it was for the most part bland. I found several spelling errors and some sentences had to be reread and could, even then, be hard to understand. It is sad that a novel about books was so disappointing in its own writing.

The characters didn’t entirely feel real and Jess wasn’t deep enough for me. I did know him, I just didn’t feel anything for him. Other characters, even those who played bigger roles, came and went without really leaving an imprint. It’s mostly a story about a class training to hopefully become workers at the Library, and so you get to follow them through classes and you see a great deal of their teacher, Scholar Wolfe. It was obvious that none of the students liked him and he did seem cold and distant, but what surprised me most was that all of the students was the best group gathered from around the world. The smartest and most brilliant minds which had the best hopes of being the future of the Library. But they seemed oddly surprised at the hard work rate they had to put into as postulants and they complained a lot that Wolfe was hard and too tough and generally neither fair nor just. Like they expected him to be kind and to coddle them. They heap a lot of hate on him but I didn’t feel like he deserved any of it. If anything, it felt like Caine wanted the reader to feel sorry for the students for having such a tough and hard time, which only made me wish Wolfe to be harder on them.

I do think this is a novel that had a lot of potential but alas, it didn’t quite reach the heights I knew it could’ve. It was far from bad but it felt plain, even though it had its fair share of action and plots twists. It felt like something was missing, but I’m not sure quite what that would be. More depth, perhaps. I will probably read the sequel, but I won’t count down the days until it comes out and I won’t return to Ink and Bone in the near future. That said, it might just be the novel for you, if you want to see what a world ruled by books could look like.

The Night Circus

It’s the fourth year running that I read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I ended up reading it in October the very first time and have continued to do so every October since, which I find both interesting and curious since the month of October plays such an important role for the story. But enough of that on onto my thoughts about it.

The Night Circus is the story about a magical place where people come to escape and explore. The black and white circus pops up at random all over the world and offers sights and experiences more fit in dreams than anywhere else. The circus is loved by many, but few knows of its origins. That it was created, not for people to enjoy, but as a venue for a challenge with very obscure rules. For years, two people play a game inside the circus, without anyone really noticing. Dreams become reality and reality turn into dreams while the circus keeps traveling and the game goes on.

I could sit here and praise this wonderful novel all night long, but I think that time is better spent reading the novel. I will say this: The Night Circus is no ordinary book and you will not be the same after reading it. It is enchanting, it is magical and it is, first and foremost, a really, really good story. Morgenstern is a master at writing, a master at creating wonderful characters and a master at building the world which contains the circus. I had come about fifty pages into the story when I was already longing for next year when I will read it again.

What really got me when reading it this time around wasn’t merely the story, but the characters as well. I focused more on them then the circus and the game and was able to see things I've not noticed before. Seeing the characters evolve and grow, seeing the subtle details and clues Morgenstern leaves all over the pages, seeing the small things in the big picture was really interesting. I found myself understanding characters I’ve had a problem with before and questioning characters that I’ve liked earlier. Reading it once a year, year after year really makes me see how much I evolve as well, which was a head-spinning but cool experience. For every time I read it I feel like I understand it better, I see it clearer, I feel more connected to it. This is certainly not an ordinary novel.

The Night Circus is magnificent in every way and it remains one of my all-time favorite novels. Few things are better than The Night Circus and I can’t wait to pick it up again.