The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Locke Lamora is a thief. He has always been a thief, but while his skills are many, he lacked direction. Until he was sold to Father Chains, the con-man priest who headed the Gentlemen Bastards. Under Chains direction, Locke’s skills as a con artist supreme flourished. After Chains’ death, Locke and the other Bastards use their talents to run cons on the wealthy nobility of Camorr. Until a new threat shows its hand, and Locke and the other Bastards are pulled into the Grey King’s scheme to take over the underworld of the city. When the coup threatens the people and things Locke holds dearest is his mercenary life, he vows to defeat the Grey King, even if it means his own life.
And that’s just the bare bones of the story. I don’t want to give too much away because this is one of the best heist tales I have read in a long time. It’s part Ocean’s Eleven, part Oliver Twist, and a whole lot Locke Lamora. Every time I thought the storylines were coming together and beginning to weave into a whole, something else drops in to add a deeper twist.
The city of Camorr is one of the best fantasy settings ever conceived- it’s an island city connected by canals reminiscent of Venice. Populated by the upper class nobility, who live in tall towers made of Elderglass, a substance that makes up a large part of the city, and which was manufactured and used by the original mysterious inhabitants of the city who are now long gone. There is also a thriving criminal element that exists under the control of the capas, who are rather like mob godfathers, and which thrives under a secret agreement with the city’s police. It’s a fascinating, complex, and well-developed world.
The characters are also quite well done. Locke is one of those wonderfully likeable rogues- he’s a thief and a con man, but he’s also smart, witty, and charming. The other Bastards are just as appealing. Other characters are never stiff or undeveloped, whether major or not. But beware- Lynch, like another rather famous writer, is not beyond doing away with a favorite, so don’t get too attached to anyone! The story is interesting, if long (the paperback is over 700 pages), and does some back and forth between present day and flashbacks to Locke’s training. There are a few infodumps, but they are handled well and are few enough that they don’t take away from the action. The action itself is nicely paced and heart-pounding in spots. There is some brutality, but it is a natural part of the story and not there just for shock value. I suppose it is fair to give a language warning, as well, but really, Locke and his fellows take cursing to a new height. Humor is woven throughout the story in subtle ways, mostly through Locke’s character.
When this book was first published, it was praised just about everywhere in the fantasy world. Having finally gotten around to reading it, I can say it was well-deserved. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a wonderful book.
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