“Red Seas Under Red Skies” is the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora and is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series. Even though it’s the second book in the series, it has its own story arc. While it would have been helpful to read LoLL first, I don’t think that it is 100% necessary.
“Red Seas Under Red Skies” takes place in the kingdom of Tal Verrar. Locke and Jean, whom we know from the first book, are two thieves who just want to be richer and better than everybody else. They come up with a scheme to rob the head of the Sinspire, an infamous casino. However, other forces within the city conspire to use Locke and Jean’s unique talents toward their own ends. Oh, and the best thing about the book? There are pirates.
Scott Lynch’s writing is a lot of fun. He uses creative cursing and banter to create a lighthearted atmosphere, even as his characters are fighting for their lives. Lynch also challenges traditional gender roles, treating his female and GLBT characters as completely normal. For example, the captain of the pirate ship is the mother of two children, and another of the pirates is a lesbian. Neither of these things are a big deal or are seen as terribly unusual.
I’m also a big fan of the world-building. The first book in the series was set in Camorr, which was a vaguely medieval city with glass towers that were built by the long-departed Lovecraftian Eldren. Hungry sharks lived in Venetian canals that criss-crossed the city. Tal Verrar evokes a different atmosphere entirely and has recently developed clockwork technology, giving it a bit more of a steampunk vibe. I like how each city-state seems to have its own distinct atmosphere while still forming an organic part of the larger world.
Overall, I’d highly recommend “Red Seas Under Red Skies,” especially if you enjoyed “The Lies of Locke Lamora.”