If you haven't finished Red Seas Under Red Skies yet, well, spoiler alert!
There's a certain expectation when it comes to a story about a con. The roguish main characters start off with a scene showing off their amazing abilities, we learn a bit more of their backstory and personal demons as they plot to pull a job, stuff hits the fan and everything that can go wrong does go wrong...but against all odds, our MCs manage to make the heist happen and escape in more or less one piece.
Well, about that...
In Red Seas Under Red Skies, there's no room for happy endings.
In the last 10% of the book, not only does Jean lose the love of his life, Locke is still dying of Stragos' latent poison, and after all their effort and scheming to keep two very intimidating masters happy, Locke and Jean find out that the gods-damned paintings were fake.
I suppose the only silver lining is that Locke did indeed get to sack Salon Corbeau and Zamira got her revenge on Stragos, but these pale in comparison to the doom hanging over Locke and Jean's heads. How is one going to live without the other, and even if they both do make it out of this alive, how the hell are they supposed to get back on their feet? Spend another 3 years planning a new con that will make them filthy rich?
But let's be real: did you really expect Locke and Jean to buy themselves a noble title and settle down in some fancy house overlooking a vineyard?
I think Scott Lynch does a masterful job of playing with your expectations. You generally expect your heroes to succeed in the end, even if they lose something along the way. That's not the case here. You expect Locke and Jean to never doubt one another and always have each other's backs, but there was more than one instance where they feared the other one had betrayed them (that prologue crossbow scene...phew! Not to mention trying to get the other one to drink the antidote). I usually expect the bad guy to take the fall at the end (I mean, look at what happened to Raza!) but Requin basically gets out of this situation unscathed. If anything, Requin has an even better position now that the archon is gone and the Priori have taken over.
But even with everything stacked against them, I still am solidly convinced that Locke and Jean will find a way to not only survive, but make the most out of their lives. Their friendship anchors this series, and if anything happens to one of them in later books I will probably cry tears of blood. No matter what insanity comes their way, they manage to find a way through, even if it isn't exactly as planned. It's one thing to be beaten down again and again, and quite another to keep your sense of humor and stand right back up.
I'm looking forward to more not-so-happy endings, because Jean and Locke deserve better than a neat little "Happily Ever After."