Red Seas Under Red Skies (The Expected Review…)

In a recent blog post I hinted (badly) that a friend had mentioned to me that Red Seas Under Red Skies felt like it was just filler. But at the time I hadn’t finished the book so I couldn’t really comment.

Well, now I can. 

First off, let’s deal with what was said about the book being filler. Now from what I can see about how the book went down, I think that the reason this has been said is because although there’s a fair amount that happens in the book you get the feeling that a lot of it is build up to the climactic ending. And there is a climactic ending, but because the ending explodes and snaps rather suddenly you very much get the feeling when you’re closing that ‘There’s not enough room to finish this’.

I definitely started wondering how Lynch was going to resolve the plot once I started getting to 150 pages left to go … 100 pages left to go. And then boom. 

Another reason I think that it felt like a bit of filler is partly because of the setting. Even after the swashbuckling quote on the front of the first book and piratical adventures suiting the characters, the fact that they were gallivanting on a ship with a very strong captain made it feel like they were almost piggybacking on another story for a large part of the book. 

It’s a strange feeling really, because I don’t think this in any way detracted from the enjoyment that is to be had from the book. The writing is still good, the characters are still very entertaining and the world is still fascinating.

I think it’s that because you felt like they were just hopping along with someone else’s adventure you knew that they were going to leave those characters behind in the end so it almost felt inconsequential. This feels silly to say because Lynch does try and address this and he does that well, introducing characters and intertwining them with our protagonists with skill and consequence.But I guess, at least from my perspective, I’m always aware that they’re the great con-artists and it’s hard to forget that whatever might happen they’re going to move on to the next big score at some point. Although that view point is probably not helped by the fact that I knew there was a third book, so maybe if I didn’t know that I might have thought they could settle down at the end…. 

 Anyway! 

 The work itself is just like reading more of the first, so that’s no bad thing. The characters retain their playfulness, intelligent and cunning ways. There’s more baggage than you get with the first book, the ending of Lies of Locke Lamora clearly weighs on them and at times there is the feeling that there’s a sword of Damacles dangling overhead waiting to split the group asunder. But that’s not a bad thing, it just adds another dimension to the plot along with the usual tension from whatever score they’re planning. The writing retains its wit, keeps its pacing and generally drags you along for the ride whether you want to put the book down or not.

 

I’ve touched on the setting. But the fact that the characters are out in the big wide ocean for a portion gives a good reason for Lynch to show you the characters weaknesses and expose their raw nerves. You definitely feel like the characters are being pushed to their limits and that they’re finding out just as much about themselves as we are. 

 

I would definitely recommend this book, even more so if you’ve already enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora. I am glad that the next installment is already available for purchase as the ending almost felt too quick. You’re just getting ready for a big climactic ending and you get one, but it’s over almost before you know what’s happening. 

 

So yes, read this, it’s just as good as the first and you’ll be hard pressed not to dive straight into the next one!

 

See you next time!

This Book Ain’t No Sandwich! (On the Subject of Filler)

This blog post is coming off a comment a friend made to me at a book signing, Specifically that second book in this particular series was a bit of ‘filler’ and it really picked up again in the third and latest book.

And that got me thinking.

I’ve heard tell of people having that opinion of Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’m warning you now, that this isn’t  really spoiler-y but if you want absolutely everything in that book to be a surprise then look away now….

Okay you were warned!

Well my friend said that by the end of the book Kvothe ‘is still at the University’. Now, he said this to me when I was just getting into the book (damnable actual work getting in the way!) so I was surprised by this, especially as I regarded the weight of the volume. But, I trust Patrick Rothfuss, not only does his writing excel but he’s a very funny man and does a tremendous amount for charity. And I’ve often thought that the Kingkiller trilogy won’t necessarily wrap up Kvothe’s entire storyline but will rather wrap up the story he’s telling the Chronicler and possibly end with him running off to do more adventuring and truly becoming Kvothe the Bloodless once more rather than Kote the Innkeeper. But that’s my opinion.

Anyway! What surprised me once I’d finished the tome (that seems appropriate for the gargantuan hardback) and checked back with my friend is just the sheer amount of stuff that he seemed to gloss over in his statement that he’s ‘still at the University’. Kvothe effectively goes on a gap year across the Four Corners! I won’t say any more than that but still. I thought he was doing a great injustice only thinking about the start and end position of the protagonist. He was missing out all of the character development, all that he’d done! Argh (I thought, vehemently, at the time)!

But it’s not for me to judge (aloud) how people interpret and enjoy books, their experiences will be very different from mine and it’s all the more personal and unique for that. So fair enough.

And I was reminded of my friend’s comment at the book signing last week. Commenting that Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and the second book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence felt a bit like filler for him.

I have to say here that what filler is can differ for different people but it seems to me that the stories that focus on character development rather than plot development will get hoisted and people will call them out for being ‘filler’ and not really moving forward.

That’s just not true though. If at the end of the story your characters are better off, and they’ve learned something (even if they haven’t defeated the bad guy!) and aren’t exactly where they started then the story has moved forward.

It can be difficult to try and introduce new elements without halting the story for a time, especially in fantasy as you need to give the audience time to adjust and get used to your world. And I think that this is in a way what’s happened with both of those books. The readers become disparaged when you can clearly see the obstacle and it hasn’t been overcome, they’re almost spoiled by episodic programmes and works and so expect it all to be wrapped up in a neat little bow.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want all my stories to never end, and I think that it also reflects as bad storytelling if you have a book and absolutely nothing gets resolved at the end. You need to have resolution at the end of your book, it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all resolution but there has to be something the audience can hold on to.

So what am I getting at? A good question.

That you need to be careful when accusing/using writing that might be filler. Before you consider how much the plot has progressed take a look at the characters, there might be a huge emotional pitfall that they’ve overcome. If the setting is still the same as it was on page one, what have they done since then? Have their efforts moved them towards the ultimate goal, no matter how small? And if they were small steps have the characters developed? Keep all those things in mind before you start talking about filler. It can be harder to identify if the series doesn’t have a clear indication of where it’s going and the books could be largely stand-alone (Yes I’m looking at you Gentleman Bastards), but do keep it in mind.

That’s my thoughts on the matter anyway. I know that turned out into a bit of a rant so thank you for sticking around!

I’ll be back soon with something less rambley. Until then, be well, be kind and have fun!