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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

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…

After over a month of discussions on The Lies of Locke Lamora read along, I’m finally writing down my thoughts on this story. The following is not exactly a review, more like a summary of my read along and contains spoilers so I advise you to seek another review if you want something spoiler free.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely one the most interesting fantasy books I’ve read lately. First off, Lies takes place in a bustling port city similar to a Renaissance age Venice. This is so refreshing compared to the typical fantasy story that is set in a generic medieval style country. This slightly more modern setting allows Lynch to create a vibrant city that is filled with lives and activities, as well as exotic goods that you rarely find in other novels.

What further impressed me is the attention to detail in this book. Lynch has created a world so rich that you could mistake it for real. There’s a mysterious forgotten race, a fascinating religion system, a hierarchy of classes that separates the nobles from the common folks and then there’s food with description so vivid that causes salivation on the very thought of them. Can you honestly say you don’t want to take a sip of Austershalin brandy or taste the sweet nectar from Orange Sofia? What’s even more phenomenal is that Lynch created all these for his debut novel. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these information, I was mesmerised throughout by how natural and how well suited they are to the story. The writing was so good that these details didn’t feel out of place at all.

Many people complained about the language, saying the profanities are inappropriate or too modern for the society of that period. Well for the first point, these people are known as the Gentleman Bastards and not just the Gentlemen. You can’t really expect thieves and con artists to behave like some uptight nobles even when they’re being themselves. Whereas for the second point, you have to remember this is a fantasy fiction and not a historical fantasy and Lynch can use any language that he sees fit for his characters. I think the swearing would stick out like a sore thumb if he were to use anything else.

And then there’s the complaints about the interludes. Some find the flashbacks interspersed in the story off putting but to me this is similar to the flashback device used on television shows to introduce a new episode. I find the flashbacks add a rich layer to the storytelling, providing just enough background information to introduce the new scenes. It was great to learn how powerful the Bondsmagi are and then the next chapter opens with Locke swearing at one of these mighty Bondsmagi.

Finally there’s the Gentleman Bastards themselves. Locke, with his exceptional skills in scheming and plotting makes for a fitting leader after the departure of Father Chains. Jean, fighter and saviour of the group, strong but not stupid. Then there’s the Sanza twins who provide much of the comedy relief of the group and last but not least Bug, the youngest one of the group who looks up to the older boys as idols. These are some of the most sympathetic thieves that you will ever come across. I just love the sense of camaraderie between the Gentleman Bastards. Except for the whole dying thing, wouldn’t it be great to be part of the gang?

It was pretty shocking to see them killed off so early in the series. I knew the deaths were coming but I thought these Gentleman Bastards could at least make it for a few more books. I wonder how Locke and Jean will move forward now without the other boys. Can they ever accept someone new to replace the friends they lost? And what about that mysterious Sabetha? I wonder what she did to get Locke so in love with her.

Lynch has created a fantastic story with The Lies of Locke Lamora. Yes, there is a lot of swearing and scenes of brutality but the Gentleman Bastards do live in a dangerous era and operate with some of the meanest and roughest criminals. I found there is a good balance of humour and light-heartedness alongside the thrills and excitement to make this story an extreme pleasure to read.

I can’t highly recommend this enough but seeing that this book is voted as one of the top 10 books published by Gollancz in its fifty years of publishing more than speaks for itself. A must read for any fantasy fans.

Discussion Posts:
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 1
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 2
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 3
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 4
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 5

Challenges read for:

2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 15