I was lucky enough to receive e-ARCs from NetGalley of all three books in Weekes’ Rogues of the Republic series, allowing me to familiarise myself with the first two installments before I read and reviewed the third one. Although I wrote Goodreads reviews of books one and two, I didn’t review them on the blog so that you guys didn’t get overwhelmed, but now I’m going to review book three and work the other two into it along the way.
The best way I can think of to describe the Rogues of the Republic series is Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch meets early Discworld by Terry Pratchett. Imagine Rincewind, the luggage, and all the other characters who fill the pages of those early Discworld books. Now imagine they’re trying to steal stuff, and that despite all the ridiculousness they get up to, they’re quite good at it.
Voila. You now have a fairly good idea what this series is like.
Our cast is diverse, entertaining, and bordering on the absurd. Unicorns, talking warhammers, and inept wizards feature prominently. But while this book acts as a commentary and a parody of a lot of fantasy tropes, in the best way possible, it also doesn’t ignore real-world issues.
One of the main ones that we see explored is racism, which exists in this world in a very similar form to how it exists in ours (white against black, a history of slavery and colonialism, etc etc). Instead of ignoring these issues or brushing over them, Weekes approaches them straight-on, and while some could accuse it of being unsubtle, I actually found it a refreshing change to most fantasy novels and their cast of straight white men.
Diversity is a huge feature in these books, and it isn’t just about race, although since several of the main characters are Urujar (black), that does crop up a lot. There are queer characters of various sorts, disabled characters (including one who is blind), and it also deals with issues of gender and expectations. Oh, and economic diversity, and what it’s like as a poor person in the world of rich people.
Honestly, the diversity was one of my favourite things about these books. There’s plenty that’s hilarious, there’s plenty that’s tragic, and there are some really gorgeous moments — as well as some meaningful points made without being pretentious. But ultimately, the thing that sets it apart from other parodies and fantasy series is its refusal to shy away from issues of race and stuff.
So, bravo Weekes.
And now onto some thoughts on The Paladin Caper, book three in the series, which comes out in October.
I’m not sure if this is the last book, or if there are to be more. If this was the end, then it ended in a satisfying way. The book takes the emotions and humour and tropes of the previous books to new levels, intensifying everything. The stakes are higher, the relationships more complex, and there’s a whole lot more to lose.
We see antagonists we’ve met in previous books: the Glimmering Folk, the ancients, that sort of thing. The characters have built on their previous losses and betrayals to become more themselves.
Ululenia, the unicorn, was one of my favourites in this book — she came very close to being evil, and I have to say, her moments with fangs were as thrilling as her fixation with virgins was entertaining. I also loved Tern, because how could I not? And Kail — Kail whose main skill is distracting people by insulting their mothers and then punching them — is wonderful, as ever.
So is his mother.
The plot was pretty complex and I have to admit, I got lost in a couple of places. That isn’t unusual as I read fast and find it hard to keep everything straight in my head, but it did mean at times I was finding it a bit hard to follow what was going on. At the same time, there was so much double-crossing happening that some of that confusion was expected and required for the plot to actually work.
However exciting the plot was, it’s definitely the characters and the dialogue that I love most about this series, so here are a few examples.
FROM The Palace Job:
“Tern, this may be an eldritch glimmering beyond the comprehension of man causing my sight to betray me, but I’m sensing some veiled hostility.”
Kail grinned. “Yeshki-aitha’al’ur, al-ajetosh‘is!” he proclaimed with a gesture that transcended the centuries.
“Gods, he knows it in every language.”
Tern rolled her eyes and tugged at her sodden brown dress, which now clung to her tightly and outlined all the illegal things she had in her pockets.
FROM The Prophecy Con:
She rose, and looked upon the horde of zombies that roared and gurgled and lurched toward her. “Bitch, please.”
Icy stared at the great planes of angled stone in surprise. “In the Empire, we heard that most of the dwarves lived underground.”
“Nah, that’s just a legend,” said Tern. “Also kind of racist.”
FROM The Paladin Caper (review copy — quotes aren’t final):
“I can pretty much go both ways now,” Desidora said.
Tern glared. “Well, that at least sounds like something a love priestess would say.”
“The desperation of this plan would be charming–”
“Your mother is charming, Ethel,” Kail said from the control console.
Compared to an airship, it was a knife in a world full of pillows.
So if you’re looking for an eclectic group of criminals and magical folk who get in trouble but then save the Republic (three times), this could be a series for you.