Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora Author: Scott Lynch Series: Book 1 of The Gentleman Bastard sequence Genre: Fantasy, thieves Rating: 5/5
Oh. My. God. This book was a BLAST to read. In general, I love stories about thieves and rogues, but The Lies of Locke Lamora is a huge step above all the rest, so much so that I’m giving it 5 stars and a place among my favourites.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is set in a kind of fantastical Venice-like city called Camorr, full of canals and floating markets, barges and bridges. There’s a distinct Italian vibe to it all, in both setting and language. But there’s also an almost science-fiction element to it too – Camorr itself is built upon the massive, glass-like structures of an alien culture now long dead and forgotten. The entirety of this book revolves around Locke Lamora and his fellow thieves and friends – The Gentleman Bastards. Their thievery isn’t the usual shadowy affair of breaking into houses in the dead of night, or light-fingered tricks on a busy street (though there is some of that), but the more elaborate, ostentatious schemes of con-artists. The Gentleman Bastards don’t steal because they’re starving or because they need the money. They steal because for them, it’s just too much fun. Their delight and camaraderie is simply contagious throughout the book. And yet what I like about most books about rogues and of this book too is that despite being outside the law, they have their own commendable code of honour and the underworld, (known as the Right People of Camorr, with its own ruler, the Capa Barsavi), has its own laws that must be obeyed.
What I loved most about this book was its structure and its pacing. Throughout the book, the focus alternates between the main story (itself divided into 4 main parts: I: Ambition, II: Complication, III: Revelation, IV: Desperate Improvisation) and several interludes which act as little side stories about Locke and the Gentleman Bastards from their younger days and the city of Camorr in general. What’s great is that the interludes and main story weave together oh so perfectly. Each one foreshadows the other, making you actually eager to read the interludes. It’s inevitable that I would draw comparison to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind here, which also used a similar “back and forth in time” interlude structure to tell the tale of his respective main character and how they came to be a legend (with Kvothe being the Kingkiller and Locke being the Thorn of Camorr, or simply a Gentleman Bastard). Still, I find that the two authors used the same structure differently, and I think I prefer Scott Lynch’s version slightly more, just because it allowed him to weave all his plotlines and connect everything in such a satisfying way.
There were so many “aha” moments in this book where I laughed and realised that I too, like some of the characters, had been duped by the Gentleman Bastards in their clever schemes. And while this book was definitely a fun and exhilarating read, it was by no means all light-hearted fun and games. There were a few moments that were just heart-wrenching to read and as the story moves along, you see a much larger, more serious plot looming over the Gentleman Bastards.
While I enjoyed this book immensely, there was one thing I was initially wary of in the first few chapters. When I first started reading the book, I found that there were simply too many Capitalised Fancy Names for places and concepts. You know what I mean. The Teeth Show. The Quiet. The Duke’s Wind. The Black Bridge. The Shifting Market. The Floating Grave. etc. etc. As a relatively veteran fantasy reader, I don’t mind made up words and a few capitalised fancy names here and there, but when it’s used excessively for everything, even little things that will be introduced once then never mentioned again, I find it mildly annoying. It’s a feature that’s unfortunately rife in a lot of generic and regurgitated fantasy literature. (It’s one of the reasons, along with the excessive apostrophe’d names, that I didn’t get past the first chapter of the famous Wheel of Time series, (sorry any fans reading) though that’s something to talk about in another post). But all in all, the great storytelling in The Lies of Locke Lamora compelled me to continue reading, and by the second half, a lot of the important Capitalised Names (like Falselight and Gentled creatures) were properly integrated into the world and didn’t bother me half so much anymore. Oh and if it’s a deterrent to anyone, there is a substantial amount of swearing in this book, though I found it to be fitting with the respective characters. (And did I mention that the dialogue in this book was superb? Because it was – each character’s voice was just so distinctive and cleverly written. And all the vivid imagery and the worldbuilding too- the writing in general was just so satisfying to read).
I read this book in ebook format on my iPad but I’m so keen to get the sequels in physical paperback as soon as I can. What a blast. I know I’m reading this more than 10 years after it was published and quite late in the game, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t yet read it!
// For #TheReadingQuest challenge: this was 742 pages (+ 74.2 HP) and completes the main quest “The first book of a series” (+10XP). That means as of today, my current status is: Level 1 | XP: 30 | HP: 124.2 //