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 really, really like the way we encounter the magic here. I’m used to reading high fantasy, where the magic is usually seen from the user’s point of view and it’s all about how awesome it is to be able to do that – but this is magic from the worm’s-eye view, seen from Locke’s totally insightless position as the hapless victim, and it’s briliantly described. I love the imediacy of Lynch’s writing, the way you can feel the heat on your skin and taste the food; but the real treat for me in this book is feeling the fantastical elements so clearly too. I think that’s a tip I’m going to add to my library in the effort to improve my own writing. “Show, don’t tell” is an old saw for writers, but showing like that in fantasy is almost an obligation in order to do justice to the setting.
In terms of the actual question… as a veteran nerd hag (like a fag hag, but with geeks) I’m well aware of the received wisdom that magic is a game-breaker – any very powerful magical character will terminally unbalance a roleplaying game’s combat system because the thing about magic is it isn’t fair. I don’t think it can be got out of in terms of the power imbalance it creates – because let’s face it, Locke has just been pretty unceremoniously informed that he is not as big as he thinks he is any more. How Locke does get out of it, if he does, will be the interesting part…
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 haven’t got a bentley. Nofa king idea. Waiting to see. Although this is still a fantasy novel so the idea that he’s just some random vicious opportunist seems far-fetched, he’s probably got some connection to the plot so tortured it’s worthy of a Shakespeare comedy. Honestly I’m not that bothered about it at this stage, I just want to carry on with the ride 🙂
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 found the Nazca thing kind of… “Oh.” She was an interesting character with a lot of potential and I would have liked to see how the Locke-and-Nazca plotline played out. It’s nice to know Lynch doesn’t shy away from killing off a character to keep the tension credible, it’s just a shame it had to be one of the more interesting ones so far. It does make me think that by the end we’re not likely to have a complete complement of Gentleman Bastards any more, though… no protagonist has as awesome a life as Locke does at the start of the book without getting *really* kicked in the teeth later on. At this point in the read I was looking forward with a sort of masochistic fascination to finding out exactly how hard…
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?
“Nice bird” is, quite definitely, the standout Locke moment in the book. If I tried to quote every piece of dialogue that had me cackling and spouting bits of the book at my flatmate I’d be here all night, but it’s always the banter between the Bastards that does it. Although I think my favourite moment between them is the “Liar – liar – BASTARD!” ritual they have before they pull off a job; it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but in a way it’s very touching – the perfect encapsulation of the bond they share. The point later on [SPOILER ALERT!!] where they run this little ritual and are interrupted by the Falconer asking them if they’ve lost their minds, though, that really is hilarious. 🙂
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?
I didn’t think they were “cleverer than all the rest” to start with. I thought they were a cool bunch of guys, but also young, arrogant and a little more satisfied with their own talent than prudence would suggest. It had to hit a brick wall sometime, and what a wall Lynch found for it to hit.
I think they’ve been dropped into this over their heads. Chains wasn’t indoctrinating them into the long and wide view of politics and the machinery of state; he was shaping them up to con Camorri nobles out of cash. The Grey King seems to have some bigger idea than mere financial gain, and the Gentleman Bastards couldn’t have been expected to see that coming.
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 think the Grey King’s “death” is likely to be intentional and part of his wider plan. It’s too neat to be a coincidence that the apparent removal of the threat will make Capa Barsavi relax; and that will lay him open to further attacks – quite possibly, to being murdered himself. It’s all getting very Godfather right now…
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?
I’m finding them interesting. Locke is definitely a person in his own right, not just a window into the book for the reader’s benefit; I’m enjoying the rounding-out of Jean, as well, the chubby merchant’s son with a bad enough temper to mould him into a threat. I almost regret not seeing more of Don and Doña Salvara’s relationship, since they seem interesting, and Doña Salvara has the potntial to be a fascinating woman given her gift for alchemical engineering. I’d like to see her given more screen time. But I will say that my absolute favourite character in the book is Doña Vorchenza. If I hadn’t read ahead I wouldn’t have met her yet, so I won’t spoiler too hard just yet 🙂
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?
I honestly don’t know. There’s been a mention that Chains isn’t around any more – we don’t know how or when he died, or if he gave the Bastards any indication of his bigger plan before he did, but I’m not sure he necessarily did have a big idea. The Right People of Camorr aren’t really portrayed as grand schemers, just petty thieves making a living – maybe Chains just saw a different opportunity to cash in. Maybe he had a plan but died unexpectedly, before he could reveal it; maybe he’s bitter about losing out in the creation of the Secret Peace and wants to change things. Who knows. I’ll be interested to see if we find out.