& Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Del Rey June 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Del Rey June 2006

The Book Itself: It’s not an overly remarkable cover. And it’s really one of those images that makes more sense once you immerse yourself in the story’s world: a grungier, more packed version of Venice, perhaps, is how Lynch wants us to see Camorr.

My ReviewThe Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a ghost that walks through walls. Half the city believes him to be a legendary champion of the poor. The other half believe him to be a foolish myth. Nobody has it quite right.

Slightly built, unlucky in love, and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. He certainly didn’t invite the rumors that swirl around his exploits, which are actually confidence games of the most intricate sort. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else, pray tell, would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny of it. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards.

Locke and company are con artists in an age where con artistry, as we understand it, is a new and unknown style of crime. The less attention anyone pays to them, the better! But a deadly mystery has begun to haunt the ancient city of Camorr, and a clandestine war is threatening to tear the city’s underworld, the only home the Gentlemen Bastards have ever known, to bloody shreds. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends will find both their loyalty and their ingenuity tested to the breaking point as they struggle to stay alive…

It’s been a while since I have bitten into a good fantasy series. I am sad to say that I lost steam on Peter Brett’s The Demon Cycle series (The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, and now The Skull Throne). Only the first three books were out, and it was a series I felt I had to read straight through, like Game of Thrones, where there were so many characters and settings and things toremember, that it would have been easier to just sit down and read it all straight through.

That being said, only three of this series – Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series – is currently out on shelves. The fourth will be released in July of next year (Oi vey), and cover art has not yet emerged for the fifth installment. So there is the potential to lose steam on this series as well.

But what a promising start! I kept passing up this book when I read the synopsis because it seemed a little been-there, done-that.  A group of orphans raised to be thieves grow up to be even more competent scoundrels, stealing from the rich to give to…themselves. I kept reading it and going “meh,” time and time again. Then I saw that a fellow fantasy read I knew gave it a five-star rating on Goodreads. I found the mass market version of the book on sale and decided to go for it.

And I’m glad I did. Lynch is a clever writer, who has written a very clever protagonist and plot. The story is twisty and turn-y, and the characters have a biting wit that is funny to read. It’s a long book – my paperback topped out at around 700 pages. But I found the time to fly by. A bulk of my reading throughout my days this holiday season has been on my lunch breaks. I have spilled many a food item into my lap while trying to simultaneously read this book and also eat my lunch.

But yeah, great characters, witty dialogue, plot twists galore…we’ve seen this all before, right?

Yeah, but none are set in the world that The Lies of Locke Lamora. Remember the movie Moulin Rouge? How Baz Luhrman made that Paris look so gritty, so awesomely complex and, even though it was dark and full of sickness and drugs and alcohol, look really, really cool (and if you aren’t a fan of Moulin Rouge, well then 1.) you’re wrong, and 2.) we can’t be friends) Lynch’s Camorr is like that. From mysterious Elderglass towers that tower hundreds of stories in the air, to the Floating Market, where vicious man-eating sharks can only be fought by tough-looking women with hand machetes and axes, this worldbuilding ROCKS. The setting is what really pulls the story together. You fall in love with Camorr and its faults like you fall in love with Locke and Jean, Galdo, Calo, and Bug. They are good characters, woven into a terrific setting.

The story zigzags back and forth between past and present, but it does so evenly and smoothly. It does that mean thing that your favorite TV shows and movies does, where you get to a really tense part of a scene…and then moves to a flashback. Darn you, Lynch, I guess I’ll just have to keep reading… It is a lot of set-up: we get all of Locke’s childhood and adolescence, his training with a sneaky priest nicknames Chains, and the building of his relationships with his fellow thieves.

I will say that the ending packs an emotional wallop. It is a bittersweet end that makes me want to read what happens next. To sum up: a terrific start to a fantasy series. I’m glad I finally got over my snobbery and read it 🙂

My Grade: B+

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