The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch.
I read this book when it was first published. I loved it then and have fond memories of it even now. Unfortunately those memories are hazy, so as I am as excited as a dog who has been promised “walkies” for the third instalment in the Gentlemen Bastards” series, I thought I would delve into Camorr once more and experience it’s delights.
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count. Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich - they're the only ones worth stealing from - but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards. Together their domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it's a city of shifting revels, filthy canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemeteries. Home to Dons, merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples, and feral children. And to Capa Barsavi, the criminal mastermind who runs the city. But there are whispers of a challenge to the Capa's power. A challenge from a man no one has ever seen, a man no blade can touch. The Grey King is coming. A man would be well advised not to be caught between Capa Barsavi and The Grey King.Even such a master of the sword as the Thorn of Camorr.
I loved this book just as much if not more this time round. For a debut novel, Scott Lynch’s accomplished and poised prose is truly breathtaking. The descriptive passages are second to none with every adjective necessary and every verb relevant.
Camorr feels real, it feels like I could choose to go there if I wanted to (I certainly wouldn’t), but most of all it feels original. So many fantasy novels (myself included) stick the pseudo-medieval worlds but Lynch bravely departs from this tradition and has created something far more.
Every detail has been thought out and thought out well. From the currency, the guilds, the commerce and even the calendar, it is all fresh and new. The best thing about it all is that it is introduced into the tale organically. There are no real info dumps and no self indulgent “look what I’ve created” passages.
So often in reviews I talk about how setting being the star of the novel. Whether it be the way a town breathes life into the novel or evokes a mood and tone of the narrative. This usually means that the characters are overshadowed by the descriptions.
In “the Lies of Locke Lamorra,” Lynch has managed to amalgamate a vibrant city with fantastic characters to make a rich and detailed tale.
Locke himself is fantastic. We meet him both as an arrogant child who is quickly humbled and also as an arrogant adult who is slightly more humble! Sure of his abilities and his determination to overcome the odds he is a great character to read. Lynch also plants lots of layers to his character. Just what went on between him and Sabetha anyway?
His companions are also great. Jean Tannen is more than your average bruiser, demonstrating intelligence and loyalty that everyone would want in a friend. The twins are great comic relief and Bug is just the annoying little brother who you secretly adore.
It is the second characters that make the novel though. Every character is just so dam cool without trying to be. The Grey King, the Don, Chains are all fantastic creations and then you have the Falconer who tops them all.
So for me the characters and settings achieve top marks. How does the structure and plot fare?
The plot is brilliant. I have seen this novel labelled “Ocean’s Eleven in Venice,” and I think it is rather apt. There are twists galore and the story moves along at a frantic pace. Lynch demonstrates how skilled Locke and his companions are, but is also not afraid to give them a good ass-kicking once in a while. Having built up how seemingly invincible Locke is, Lynch quickly dismisses this notion.
The structure is also well handled. At the end of each chapter there is an “interlude,” this is usually a short flashback to Locke’s childhood and how he was molded by Chains into the man he is today. These are always welcome, I could have read a whole novel about Locke growing up quite easily. If there is a criticism of the novel then towards the end of the story, these interludes move away from Locke’s childhood and into describing facets of the city. Whilst still interesting they lack the emotional pull of the early interludes.
Overall then, “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” is a fantastic novel. It is a fast, paced romp with great characters and an even better setting. The ending is more than satisfactory and the re-read has only heightened my anticipation for the “Republic of Thieves.”
My rating: 9.5