As they enter the tunnel the turbulent flow forces Mark and the boy underwater and spins them end over end. He struggles to hold his breath and the lad’s hand, instinctively curling himself up to protect his head from underwater obstacles. What seems like minutes later the flow steadies and he thrashes to the surface, gratefully sucking in greedy lungfuls of dank air. After a moment he realises that the boy isn’t breathing.
The toad’s laughter is echoed sycophantically by its smaller brethren and Mark grinds his teeth, his hands curling into fists. “What’s so funny about that?” he asks as the throbbing laughter starts to subside, kicking off another round of batrachian hilarity.
The toad clutches slick wet claws to its abdomen and its mouth gapes for a moment, the boy’s slimy face appearing for a brief moment between its lips. The toad gulps him back and then inflates its throat-sac in a series of pulses that leave it massively distended and almost transparent, giving Mark a good look inside. The boy’s eyes are wild with fear. “Help!” he calls, the sound of his voice strangely muted and distorted. He pounds the membrane with his fists, each blow making a deep bass-drum THUMM. Read more…
Mark has to work hard to extract himself from the chilly water, for the purple grass is slippery and he is freighted with wet clothing. Eventually he grabs big handfuls of the long grass and uses them to pull himself slowly up out of the water. The roots make a tearing sound like Velcro coming undone but hold out long enough for him to finally reach the riverbank. He collapses on his back to catch his breath, his palms tingling with a faint burn. When he looks they’re stained with purple streaks.
“Republic of Thieves” is the long-anticipated third book in the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, preceded by “The Lies of Locke Lamora” and “Red Seas under Red Skies”. The latter of these was published in 2007 so it has been six years between volumes. I was lucky to receive an Advance Reader Copy of “Republic of Thieves” from Netgalley.com and I will do my best to review it here without any spoilers.
How does the third book in the series compare to its predecessors, and is it accessible to people who read the previous book six years ago?
Mark hits a slight bend and is launched into free-fall, a hoarse scream bursting from him as he flies. Then he’s down again with a thud that makes his coccyx throb and sliding on his rear, his passage eased by the layer of slug-slime that coats the bottom of the tunnel. It’s too dark to see so he closes his eyes; it makes him feel better, somehow.
Mark wakes to find himself blind and deaf. He panics for a moment and then realises that his eyes and ears are gluey with drying slug-slime. His mouth is sealed too and he can only breathe through his left nostril. He tries to wipe his face but finds that his arm is stuck to the floor. He panics all over again and thrashes against the muck, panting through his nostril. At last his arm tears free and he digs his fingers into the mask of slime over his face and claws it away. He sucks in a huge breath of air and finds himself taking unexpected pleasure in the simple act of breathing. Read more…
When he thinks about his life, Mark pictures his job as a giant grey toad. A toad with mottled, warty skin that squats in the middle of his life, crushing all the joy and creativity from it and leaving him feeling flat and slimy.
Although Mark is rather proud of that metaphor he prefers to avoid thinking about his life at all. Not only is such contemplation a rich source of depression, but second-guessing the series of decisions that led to his current circumstances drives him half-crazy. Read more…