The city of Camorr is a cesspool of violence and vice. A city where the downtrodden are neglected, and forgotten (if they are lucky…). It is in this city that a heterodox priest takes a group of orphan boys under his tutelage to serve his god, the nameless thirteenth. The creed of this sect is simple; Thieves prosper, and the rich remember. Thus begins the story of the Gentlemen Bastards, a group of orphan thieves who work for one goal. To be “richer and cleverer than everyone else”!
Readers quickly discover that this grimy pre-industrialized Gotham-esque world is built upon the remnants left behind by an alien civilization (which the readers learn little of in the first book). Readers get a real feel of the filth, corruption, and vice that powers this landscape. The social hierarchies are well developed, and are rather essential to the plot.
However…. I personally found the extra-terrestrial angle to be a little distracting. While I am sure that the author, Scott Lynch, plans to use this information in later books, it is not particularly helpful in progressing the plot or developing the characters in this opening book. Score: 8/10
Characters and Character Development
This is a very strong point for the Gentlemen Bastards series. The book revolves around a group of anti-heroes (honestly they are better described as outright villains in my opinion), and their schemes against unsuspecting targets. Each member of the gang is unique and memorable. In fact, the gang really is more than the sum of their parts. It is the combination of characters that makes them so memorable. And, while the gang itself is unique and likable, it is Master Chains, their mentor, who really stands out as a unique addition to the cast.
However… The villains could be a little more well developed. I really am nitpicking here, even the villains were great. But I did not leave this book feeling the type of loathing for the villains that, I think, the author intended. Score: 9/10
I have already alluded to the plot at other points in this entry, and with good reason. The story (and backstory) are spectacular. It is safe to say that the book ends very differently than what the reader is expecting after the first 100 pages. It is hard to write a spoiler free review of a books plot, so let me just say this. I devoured this book, and this was only possible because the story kept me engaged. More than that, the story felt unique. And that is tough to do in a genre with so many unique ideas floating around.
However… Speaking with some hindsight (having read the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies) I feel like Lynch could have left himself with a little more to work with at the end of this book. Score: 9/10
And finally, we come to the point where Scott Lynch has almost no equal in the genre (with the exception of, perhaps, Patrick Rothfuss). If you read this book for nothing else, read it for the beautiful prose and carefully crafted sentences that Lynch weaves together. Read it for the beautiful descriptions, read it for the masterful use of the English language. On numerous occasions I found myself reading the same page more than once just to enjoy it again.
However… However nothing. There is nothing bad to say here. Scott Lynch truly is an exceptional writer. Score: 10/10
Final Score: 36/40 | This is a book is an instant fantasy classic, to be cherished, read and re-read. Feel free to let me know what you think of the book (and this review) by leaving a comment below!
Benny Adams is a book blogger and creator of the Eh-2-Zed Book Blog. This article originally appeared on eh2zedbooks.weebly.com.