The journey of Locke and Jean find themselves facing off with their “Sister” in an election game overseen by some of the most powerful people on the planet. The Republic of Thieves is the third book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequence which see the first appearance of the Lady Bastard herself and Locke’s former lover facing off with the duo.
The book begins with flashback to the first meeting of Locke and Sabetha, the woman that he has been in love with throughout the series but who has not been introduced until this book, when they are still part of the Shade's Hill gang under the Thiefmaker. Locke falls for her but does not get to see her often then learns from older children that Sabetha drowned, and he will never see her again. Throughout the book in a series of flashbacks Locke and Sabetha as a part of the Gentlemen Bastards through their early years and finally how they became a couple while playing actors in a production of the book’s title, The Republic of Thieves. The book’s present narrative begins weeks after the previous one with Locke is dying and Jean is working to save his life, including kidnapping a physiker that brings down a local gang on them that takes everything they have. Afterwards a Bondsmagi by the name of Patience appears and offers the pair a deal. They can work with her faction of the Bondsmagi to rig elections, in favor of the Deep Roots Party, in exchange for money and Locke's life. They agree. The Bondsmagi carry Locke to the ship to Karthain on which they perform the healing. When completed is Locke is alive and hungry, it is now that they learn that Sabetha is working for the other side, the Black Iris party, and has been there a few days. Upon their arrival in Karthain, the two sides play several childish pranks back and forth. Locke is tricked by Sabetha and he and Jean awaken on a luxurious boat. Locke and Jean barely escape this boat by cutting off a small boat and escaping to shore. After a multiple day journey back to the Karthain, Locke and Sabetha make a truce for the safety of themselves and Jean to prevent issues and ensure a good show for the Bondsmagi. The elections continue and near the end Patience explains to Locke and Sabetha that Locke may be an ancient Bondsmagi who successfully moved from one body to the body of a child. The cost of this was the plague mentioned in previous books. The election result is 10 – 9 in favor of the Black Iris party. One of Locke's schemes plays out and a key Black Iris member changes his position to neutral making the result 9 – 9 – 1. Locke, Jean, and Sabetha escape the fallout to a safe house. Locke awakes in the night to find Patience there and Sabetha gone. Patience explains that Locke may or may not be the magi, but she will not tell him. Sabetha has left after learning about this. Jean appears and Locke tells him he will respect Sabetha's wish for space and will only go after her if she would wish it. The epilogue gives a story about the Falconer and his journey regaining power. The epilogue ends with the Falconer killing his mother, Patience.
This book was hard to judge because I was more interested in the flashback narrative of the young Gentleman Bastards’ first con as actors in Espara than the present-day political contest between the Bastard Brothers and their Sister. That is not to say that the political game was not interesting but compared to the early adventures of the Bastards the election felt more like it was set up for the Bondsmagi plot, though the introduction of Sabetha was nice especially as she will be important later in the sequence most likely. And the purported origin of Locke could either be very interesting or a big misdirection which will be interesting to see play out.
The Republic of Thieves felt like both a prequel and continuation of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequence with underlining plot thread that will no doubt become important in the future of the series. This interesting combination does not make the book bad but does not make it feel like a united whole either. However, at the end of reading I’m still interesting to see what Locke and Jean will do in the future.