The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

A caper set in Renaissance Venice if it were controlled as much by the Mafia as the merchants, where magic is real but very expensive, and someone is hunting down gang leaders one by one.

I found this caper pretty predictable most of the way through. For the first half of the book or so, this is deliberate. We get the conclusion first, then a flashback with the story leading up to it. I didn’t enjoy that style of storytelling. If I already know how a story ends, the story itself had better be full of surprising twists and turns. Not in this book. Even after the flashbacks end the story keeps spoiling its own plot. The reader is a little too in on the caper.

It was just OK. There are more books in the series but I don’t plan to read them.

The Rising

by Ian Tregillis

The three-sided conflict comes to a head. The Dutch threaten to wipe the French from the face of the New World. The French try not to let them. And a new Clakker threat emerges from the frozen north.

Plus a bit of philosophizing on the nature of souls and free will. But less than in the first book; this is more a straight-up save-the-world adventure. I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the first book. But like Empire Strikes Back, it’s clearly a connector to the finale, which I will be starting … now.

The Mechanical

by Ian Tregillis

Artificial intelligence, but with alchemical robots—Clakkers—instead of computerized ones. Instead of enslaving Africans to build the New World, the Dutch use alchemy to create mechanical slaves and take over Europe, driving the French into exile in their North American territories. French catholics who believe Clakkers have souls help rogue Clakkers escape on the ondergrondse grachten, the “underground canals.” New France barely survives by wielding advanced chemical weapons and defenses.

With plenty of references to the actual colonial history of North America, this is fundamentally an adventure story about a Clakker fugitive from injustice, a French spymaster’s quest to restore her country, and a French agent forced to betray his conscience and country. I liked it a lot, and I’ll start reading the next book in the series right away.

(Ian Tregillis’s other series, The Milkweed Triptych, is also a creative alternative-history series, about Nazis super-soldiers during World War II.)