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Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora

April 6, 2009

36. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)
Gentleman Bastard, Book 1

Length: 722 pages

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 29 March 2009
Finished: 04 April 2009

How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 26 December 2008
Verdict? Definite keeper.

Major points to Memory for the recommendation!

A talented thief
finds out, to his cost, that you
can’t fool everyone.

Summary: Locke Lamora is the consummate thief – a young orphan taken in by a gifted con artist, his training eventually leads him to become the leader of the Gentleman Bastards. The entire city of Camorr – full of shark-infested canals, twisting alleyways, wealthy nobles, petty thieves, and fantastical unbreakable glass buildings left behind by an ancient race – is their playground, and the Bastards plan the most elaborate heists possible, preying on the nobility while convincing city officials and crimelords alike that they’re only running a small-time operation. However, there is someone watching them who can see through their scams, and soon they’re caught up in a game that’s bigger – and more dangerous – than anything they’d ever dreamed of.

Review: Phenomenal. This book is essentially Ocean’s Eleven set in a fantasy world; I used that same description for Mistborn: The Final Empire, which, coincidentally, was the last book that I gave a five-star rating to… but they both deserve both the description, and they both deserve the rating. This book is a little more towards the “swords” side of the “swords and sorcery” scale of fantasy than Mistborn – magic does play a part in the plot, but for large chunks of the story it’s peripheral, and with a few tweaks, this story could be set in Renaissance Venice. It’s told in alternating “present-day” chapters and shorter “interludes” about Locke’s childhood, the forming of the Gentleman Bastards, and little tidbits about the history, politics, and economics of Camorr’s world – and underworld.

The Lies of Locke Lamora starts off as a fun, fast-paced heist book, full of gritty detail that breathes life into the slums of Camorr, but with a snarky, carefree sense of humor underlying everything. During the first half of the book, I found myself constantly grinning, either at something the characters had done, or at a successful caper they’d pulled off. I knew that the good times couldn’t last (it’s not a very interesting heist story if everything goes right all the time), but Locke and his compatriots were just so cool, so slick, and were having so much fun that it was impossible not to join them.

“I only steal because my dear old family needs the money to live!”
Locke Lamora made this proclamation with his wineglass held high; he and the other Gentleman Bastards were seated at the old witchwood table in the opulent burrow beneath the House of Perelandro … The others began to jeer.
“Liar!” they chorused in unison.
“I only steal because this wicked world won’t let me work an honest trade!” Calo cried, hoisting his own glass.
“I only steal because I have to support my poor lazy twin brother, whose indolence broke our mother’s heart!” Galdo elbowed Calo as he made this announcement.
“I only steal,” said Jean, “because I’ve temporarily fallen in with bad company.”
At last the ritual came to Bug; the boy raised his glass a bit shakily and yelled, “I only steal because it’s heaps of fucking fun!”

(p. 143-144)

And then, about halfway through, things take a severely dark turn. There are hints of darker things to come running throughout the early sections of the book, and for the next three hundred pages, Lynch is not shy about putting Locke and his friends in impossible situations, and letting them – and the reader – squirm. There are some brutal turns to the storytelling, and some plot twists that actually literally took my breath away – and yet, things fit together so intricately and so well that I felt like I should have seen them coming.

So, to sum up… Things I loved: Intricate, original, quick-moving, and *fun* story that throws you a curveball every few pages; an excellent blend of gritty darkness and quick-witted humor; fantastic writing in terms of subtle character development and worldbuilding, pacing, and suspense; but mostly I loved the fact that it hooked me in quickly and kept me totally absorbed until the end. Anything I didn’t love? There were a few too many mentions made of Locke’s lost love without ever explaining what happened or having it amount to anything, but even that’s not enough to really dock it any points. If this doesn’t end up on my top 5 for the year, it will have been a fantastic year indeed. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you even vaguely like fantasy (or crime capers – or both), this should go to the top of your list. It’s a phenomenal debut, and I’m already looking forward to Lynch’s next book.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Scott Lynch’s website, an extended excerpt of one of the very funny scenes over at Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Book Reviews.

Other Reviews: Rat’s Reading, Once Upon a Bookshelf
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.

Quick Quote: “Jean, standing a few paces behind the two of them, bit his tongue. Throwing blondes at Locke Lamora was not unlike throwing lettuce at sharks, and the Doña Sofia was very blonde.”

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 184: ““He got a few gangs under his thumb and he started cutting. Not like a back-alley slasher, but more like a physiker cutting out a chancre.”” – the initial lesion of syphilis and certain other infectious diseases, commonly a more or less distinct ulcer or sore with a hard base.
24 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2009 12:24 am

    Mistborn is somewhat similar? Perhaps I’ll have to move that up the pile, as Republic of Thieves is a long way off.

  2. April 6, 2009 3:32 am

    The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely excellent. Glad to see you liked it. The next one is just as good. Looking forward to your review of it.

  3. April 6, 2009 5:11 am

    This was definitely a great book, but I’ve been hesitant to pick up the second in the series. I own it, but I don’t want to get all wrapped up in the story again only to wait! I never thought of it as similar to Mistborn, but in a certain way, you’re right.

  4. April 6, 2009 7:38 am

    I keep ALMOST picking this book up, but hadn’t heard any opinions of it – now I’m definitely going to get it!

  5. April 6, 2009 9:11 am

    King Rat – There are some definite similarities, particularly in the underworld/gang of thieves aspect of it. Mistborn‘s got a heavier focus on magic, and worldbuilding, and the gang of thieves are together for a VERY different reason. They’re both excellent, though.

    Maria – Good to hear, considering I bought the second before I was finished with the first. :)

    Meghan – I found out yesterday that there’s supposed to eventually be seven Gentleman Bastard books! I’ll be interested to see how much the second one is a stand-alone, since the first one certainly didn’t seem like it *had* to be part of a series.

    Elizabeth – Excellent! I hope you like it as much as I did!

  6. April 6, 2009 2:28 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this! It’s definitely one of the best fantasies I’ve read in the past few years, and I’m on tenterhooks here waiting for the next one. It was supposed to be out in February, but now it’s been delayed until 2010. Sadness. :(

  7. April 6, 2009 2:47 pm

    I’ve had this one on my wishlist for ages and I know it’s available at my library…

    I’m thinking I need to stop procrastinating about it, and my already heaving TBR pile and just grab a copy… :)

  8. April 6, 2009 3:11 pm

    This really does sound phenomenal! As does Mistborn *adds both to wishlist*

  9. April 6, 2009 3:27 pm

    Memory – I didn’t realize when I started that it was part of a series… is the second one more series-ish, or is it another essentially independent story?

    Bart – I’m thinking you’re probably right, and you should. Ignoring the TBR pile is a valuable skill we all should cultivate! ;)

    Nymeth – I bet you’ll love them! I’m a bit surprised no one’s forced them on you before now. :)

  10. Shanra permalink
    April 6, 2009 4:44 pm

    Eee! I’m glad to hear you loved it so! (I’m ashamed to admit I still haven’t got round to the second book, but I will eventually! I really liked The Lies of Locke Lamora. ^-^ The first volume definitely works as a stand-alone book, but I’m glad we’re not saying farewell to the characters yet. (Well, technically… With my reading pace being glacial…)

  11. trapunto permalink
    April 7, 2009 1:37 pm

    Good haiku.

  12. April 7, 2009 2:28 pm

    RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES takes place a couple of years later and is fairly independent. Lynch does leave a pretty big loose end dangling, though.

  13. April 8, 2009 7:17 am

    I really need to get my hand on book 2 :)

  14. April 8, 2009 5:47 pm

    “Ocean’s Eleven set in a fantasy world”? Wow! I’ll have to see about picking this up!

  15. April 10, 2009 11:34 pm

    Shanra – But it is nice knowing they’ll be there for you when you want them. :)

    trapunto – Thanks!

    Memory – Ah, which explains why everyone’s so anxious for the new book to come out.

    blodeuedd – The second one’s already on my pile, although I think I’m going to save it for the next time I need snapping out of a reading funk.

    Ladytink – Definitely! I hope you get a chance to nab a copy!

    • Shanra permalink
      April 13, 2009 12:36 pm

      It’s very nice. ^-^ And when you do finally come back to them, it feels like coming back to old friends. With what Memory said, about it being set a few years after The Lies of Locke Lamora, I think it’s a nice/good idea for me to have put so much space between the first and second book. Now, when I return, it really will feel like several years have passed. (And when I do, hopefully there’ll be more books straight away. I’m determined to kick my reading list down.)

  16. April 12, 2009 10:49 am

    Soon! I mean I have to get this book soon! Hopefully. Hahaha!

  17. August 8, 2009 4:28 pm

    Just finished reading it! It was great! =)

  18. January 2, 2012 11:48 am

    You’re not the first to recommend Mistborn to those who liked Locke Lamora, and I really will have to move it up to my list, as I also loved Lynch’s debut! Can’t wait for Republic of Thieves (looks like it’s coming out in June 2012, though that’ll probably get changed…again).

    I also reviewed this book on my blog, The Itinerant Bookworm; if you could add a link, it would be much appreciated!


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