The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Publication date: 01 February 2007
Series: The Gentleman Bastards Sequence #1
Rating: Five out of five hatchets
This is a spoiler-free review.
This book has been on my radar for years, but I never managed to make a solid effort to read it. I had started on my Kindle many years ago, but didn’t make it past the first 100 pages. This isn’t terribly surprising because I can really struggle to read logner books on an e-reader, but I set Locke and the gang aside. I had bought the paperback awhile back, determined to give it another shot, but never did until a friend mentioned it was one of her favorites. When I posted it in a TBR Thursday post, a few of you were very vocal about how much you loved it too! I dove back in, and oh boy am I so glad I gave this another shot.
An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.
A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.
Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.
Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…*
The Plot and Writing
This book is part heist novel, part conspiracy, part bromance. We begin with the heist, as Locke and the gang are setting up a huge con against one of the city’s elite. Soon, the plot shifts as we discover the Grey King’s assault on Capa Barsavi’s men and the fear even his name brings. Now, slot in interludes that throwback to Locke’s childhood and thieving education, and you have the book.
I went into Locke Lamora expecting a heist book like the first Mistborn or Six of Crows. I also really don’t like shifting viewpoints, especially if they are flashbacks to the past. I think it’s a huge testament to Lynch’s writing that despite these shifts and changes within the book, he manages to really keep the reader’s interest. I wasn’t disappointed when the focus turned away from the heist because the Grey King was just so fascinating. The interludes that flash back to his childhood were fantastic because they not only showed you how the gang came to be, they were also a clever way of giving the reader necessary information about the world and upcoming plot points without a big, boring info dump. The book has its ups and downs in terms of pacing, but my interest never flagged.
I should also note that Scott Lynch is quite the wordsmith. Not only does he have some gorgeous turns of phase, lovely descriptions of the setting and weather, but he is incredibly talented at cursing. The swearing was probably my favourite part.
I don’t know why I haven’t read more fantasy books with settings based on Venice. Although I’ve never been, it seems like a fantasy city that has been zapped into our reality. From the canals and barges to the names and titles of the citizens, Camorr is basically Venice. This allows for some stunning descriptions, but also for some amazing world building. You have the sharks (and shark fighting – yikes), the caves by the sea, the plague ships, and the islands that make up Camorr.
The Venetian-inspired setting isn’t even the best bit of the world Lynch creates. The city is essentially the inhabited ruins of an ancient civilization. The Eldren built the spectacular city thousands of years before and left for unknown reasons. They built the structures out of Elderglass, a glass-like material that is flexible, luminescent, and indestructible. My two favourite details about the city involve Elderglass. Falselight is the hour after the sun sets in which the Elderglass shimmers and glows. Can you imagine seeing that? My other favourite point is the House of Glass Roses, which you should discover on your own.
Of all the fantasy world’s I’ve read, I think I’d most like to visit Camorr, thieving aside.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is all about the characters. For all it’s incredibly world-building and plot, it would have been nothing without the amazing characters we follow through the book. We spend the most time with Locke, of course. What I particularly liked about him is that he’s smarter than most people and can handle almost any situation, however he knows that he can’t outthink everyone. He is very aware that there will be some situations that he just cannot win. He is not the best at everything – as we see through his childhood meeting with Jean Tannen – and acknowledges he fact. He pulls off some increadible feats throughout the book, but he is not invincible.
The entire Gentleman Bastards crew is full of lively, colourful characters. The Sanza twins, Bug the apprentice thief, and especially Father Chains were all just fantastic. They all mesh together so well and are a family. My favourite, however, is Jean. Jean! What an incredible character. Like the other Gentleman Bastards, Jean came into the crew as an orphan, but unlike them, he knew his family and had lived a comfortable life. Jean is the gang’s brawler, fighting with the ‘Wicked Sisters’, however he’s soft and squishy. He is soft spoken, reads novels, and cares for the rest of the crew. His bromance with Locke is a thing of beauty – I absolutely love their devotion to each other. It’s so cheesy to say so, but he truly is the heart of the crew.
It’s probably pretty obvious, but I really loved this book. There are a lot of places Lynch could have misstepped, such as with the shifting viewpoints and evolving plot, but he manages to pull everything together so well. If I had a criticism it would be that there aren’t any female main characters, but I have a feeling this is going to shift if/when we meet Sabeth in future books. However, women do play a major role in the society as bodyguards and businesswomen, so it’s not like their only role is within the home. I’m really looking forward to how Lynch continues to develop the story and the world in future books.
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Have you read The Lies of Locke Lamora? What did you think? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know!