Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
Release Date: 1st February 2007
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
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.I'm late as ever to this one and have heard so much good about it that I just had to give it a try. When I put a call out on twitter with three fantasy books I was thinking of reading this was by far and away the most popular recommendation. It's always good to know that a book you plan on reading has so much support, but it's equally daunting as to whether or not I'd be in the vast majority that feels the same. So, it was with great anticipating that I started on The Lies of Locke Lamora, not knowing quite what was in store for me, but looking forward to find out.
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. As for Locke Lamora...
The start of The Lies of Locke Lamora introduces us to a young Locke, a boy who has far too much interest in stealing. He's taken in by the Thiefmaker of Camorr, someone who takes in orphans to train as thieves before they grow up and move in to the gangs of Camorr. Locke is unlike any of the other orphans and puts a lot of thought and effort into his plans for stealing. This leads to some problems, at which point the Thiefmaker decides that Locke is no longer a suitable orphan to have in Shade's Hill, the home of Camorr's orphan thieves, and receives permission from the Capa to deal with him with complete finality. However, he has one final option - to sell him to Chains, the Eyeless Priest of the Temple of Perelandro, a front for the Gentleman Bastards, the best of the best thieves in Camorr.
Fast forward to the present and Locke is now heading the Gentleman Bastards, an elite group of thieves and con artists that consist of Locke, Jean, the twins Calo and Galdo, and relative new member to their ranks, the young Bug. They're planning a con that goes above all that they've done before and promises to bring in huge rewards for the Gentleman Bastards, but events in Camorr are starting to heat up with the Gray King making his presence know to Capa Barsavi, the current ruler of Camorr, by eliminating certain gang leaders and spreading fear. What follows is a hugely enjoyable story that follows Locke and his Gentleman Bastards as they must adjust to these new events that are happening in Camorr.
The first thing I noticed about The Lies of Locke Lamora was the prose, written so well and flowing off the page with great ease. When a novel has the sort of writing that makes you want to read more, whether it's another page or even another chapter, I know I'm going to be in for a fast paced read. Scott Lynch is able to bring the characters in this story to life immediately, there was no beating around the bush when it came to developing them and it feels instantly like they've been very well crafted for a long time prior to appearing in the first few pages. This is something that very few authors can do, with fewer doing it as well as this, and it helps enormously.
Locke is by far and away the main character of the story (well, he would be with the title!), but the supporting cast could easily have their own story. While Locke is a master planner, great con man and excellent thief, he does lack any sort of intimidating physical presence. However, Jean is another matter. Lethal when provoked he is the muscle (but not only that) behind the Gentleman Bastards and is another great addition to the cast. The twins Calo and Galdo are something akin to comic relief, but again this is a poor description of their roles with the pages. While not masters at a specific role, they carry all out well and add much to the story. Bug is the newest member of the Gentleman Bastards, an apprentice of sorts with a quick mind and top notch skills. All of these character combined make the story such a joy to read and made me wonder on many occasions just what they would be up to next.
The story itself is a rather interesting one. It starts off fairly straight forward with the Gentleman Bastards planning a big con, but once the wider issues start to affect the main characters things take an entirely different twist. The introductions and build up do take around 200 pages before we get to the meat of the story, but it's 200 pages that are enjoyable and fast paced enough that it doesn't matter that it takes a while to really get moving with the plot. There are also interludes spread throughout the novel of Locke's early times with the Gentleman Bastards, starting from his first few days there. These are a welcome addition to the plot and we find out more about each of the characters as they progress, but they also serve to advance our knowledge of the characters to understand how they act. Some go even as far to foreshadow events later in the novel, and when said events do arise you think know pretty much exactly what's coming, until another twist is thrown into the works.
Only a couple of things strike me about the fact that this is supposed to be the first of a seven book series - are the following volumes going to be more of the same? It's hard not to have that in mind, but there is a bigger story arc to be played out after the ending of The Lies of Locke Lamora, one which I'm rather eager to get to. The other niggle I had was the references to Sabetha, Locke's lost love. There are only a few present throughout, but they do highlight the relative lack of back story of the Gentleman Bastards after Locke joined them. I was left wondering what exactly had gone on between Locke and Sabetha, but I'm sure that this will be revealed in good time.
I must admit that I really enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora with its memorable characters, great story and excellent setting. For someone that doesn't always appreciate the fantasy side of the genre as much as sci-fi it's always a great treat to come across this sort of work. The question is will the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies live up to my expectations? I'll know the answer soon enough - it's next on the reading stack!