It all began with a long plane flight. For years my coworker had been enthusiastically recommending Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora
, the first book of the Gentleman Bastard series, and I had nodded my head and moved on. Dashing off to the airport, I finally grabbed my copy off a teetering pile of unread books and headed out the door. I was delighted to discover that most of the major characters were sassy as all get out and they could wield their swords just as adeptly as their words. The book did exactly what I wanted it to do: create a world I could step into and be thoroughly entertained.
There are currently three titles in Lynch's series, and the latest one, The Republic of Thieves, comes out in mass market later this month. The book finds Locke and Jean tinkering in politics, while alternating chapters tell the story of a summer long ago when the two wound up starring in a play.
Lynch's writing just keeps getting better and better. He writes some of the most bawdy and hilarious dialogue I've ever read. If you haven't read the Gentleman Bastard series, enjoy. If you've already gobbled it up and want more, here are some suggestions.
Joe Abercrombie's Half a King, first in his Shattered Sea trilogy, tells the tale of Yarvi, who unexpectedly becomes king after his father and brother are killed. He is nearly assassinated, escapes, and ends up enslaved as an oarsman on a ship. Yarvi is an immediately likeable character who becomes even more appealing as the plot unfolds, and he is surrounded by a cast of characters who are lively, eccentric, and enjoyable.
Abercrombie tells his tale at breakneck speed. I finished it in two days; I simply had to know what happened next. Half a King has a Nordic setting and is a bit lighter in tone than Abercrombie's other books, while still being properly grim. Yarvi isn't given to excessive sass, but he's mouthy when he needs to be. He also has a gift for narrowly escaping bad situations.
Jalan, the central character in Mark Lawrence's Prince of Fools, is also a master of the narrow escape. When we first meet him, he is leaping out a window, on the run. This is not the last time he will be exiting by rather unconventional methods. Jalan has considerable gambling debts, he's quite the ladies' man, and his sense of honor is rather flexible. While trying to exit from another window, he becomes magically bonded with a fierce and honorable Nordic warrior, Snorri. As the two travel north on a rescue mission, we learn more of Snorri's past.
Lawrence effortlessly balances characters, world building, plot, and dialogue, and he serves up a thrilling concoction that left me hungry for more. Jalan is the salsa to Snorri's chips, and they make quite a pair, hacking up their enemies and sailing the half-frozen northern seas. It is the contrast between Snorri and Jalan that truly makes the book shine — the man of honor and the man of flexible moral standards.
Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade, first in the Greatcoats series, is the story of three swordsmen: Falcio, Kest, and Brasti. It begins with the trio making a quick exit out of a window after being framed for a murder they didn't commit. To escape the local constables, they take a job guarding a caravan. The three men were all Greatcoats, dispensers of the king's justice, but the king is dead and the Greatcoats have fallen out of favor. The retort flies fast and furious between the three main characters, and the plot gallops along at a happy pace. If I were taking another long plane flight, this is definitely the book I'd want with me.