Series: Gentlemen Bastards #1
Published by Gollancz on February 1st 2007
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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...
Did you read Lord of the Thieves when you were a child and have been searching for a book with a similar feel but for an adult audience ever since? Do you have a soft spot for Robin Hood? Well, look no further, because The Lies of Locke Lamora wraps up both with a dark and gritty story in a Venice-inspired world with foul-mouthed thieves, who steal from the rich, who you cannot but fiercely adore.
Not going to lie, this book was hard to get into at first. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a hardcore fantasy, and when I say hardcore, I mean complex and densely packed writing with an overflow of descriptions. I’m also not going to lie about getting the occasional headache from the information-loaded descriptions. And if you know anything about me, you know I usually loathe page-long descriptions without a single dialogue being exchanged for the obvious reason. It seems one can get used to it, after all. Against all odds, Lynch managed to completely captivate me with an enthralling and suspense-packed fantasy with a gang of the most daring badasses of thieves I’ve ever seen.
“Chains used to claim that there’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated,” said Locke.
“Gods, yes.” Calo rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue. “If we were any freer we’d float away into the sky and fly like birds.”
Moving on to said thieves, also known as the Gentlemen Bastards, let me tell you that I love these little shits. Their witty banter made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to crack a rib. I’d say they sort of classify as anti-heroes with their selfish plans and their lack of mercy. Locke is a great male lead, and he actually reminds me a bit of Kaz from Six of Crows the way his cunning little mind works (though the two halves of my brain will not go to war with each other over whom I like better, chrm). For a long time, the other members of Locke’s crew struck me as hollow, but as the storyline progresses, flashbacks begin to shape the character of Jean Tannen. The characterisation of the three other gang members, though, was not sufficient for me to understand who I was dealing with (no distinctive character traits and no backstories). View Spoiler »Hence, I did not feel anything when most of them were brutally murdered, which is not what your reaction is supposed to be. « Hide Spoiler I enjoyed the villain beyond measure, as even the king of thieves was afraid of this particular villain. This subplot is strung with the threads of a sweet, cold revenge, which speaks to my revenge-loving heart.
“Locke would appreciate it.”
“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is like a brother to us, and our love for him has no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it’.”
The suspense-packed plot is a clever yet complex construction, and it delivers a lot of intrigue, schemes, betrayal, and gory violence. Lynch does not spare his characters the trouble. Rather, he pushes them in headfirst, which had me often fear for them, especially the main character. The book kept spilling more and more danger until I thought the situation couldn’t possibly become more precarious for the Gentlemen Bastards, but of course, it did. The story is set in a richly imagined world inspired by old Venice with canals, intricate bridges, and beggars and thieves and dukes. This could have passed for historical fiction if not for the fantasy elements, such as jumping wolfsharks and cruel magicians. Parts of the world-building, like the thieves’ organisational hierarchy and their rituals, suggest that Lynch was inspired heavily by the Italian mafia, which I thought was brilliant.
“So that makes us robbers of robbers who pretend to be robbers working for a robber of other robbers.”
I’m not going to criticise the writing, as I believe this is how an adult fantasy is supposed to be written like and the style itself suggested a high level of skill, so perhaps young adult fantasy simply suits my tastes better. What bothered me more than the dense writing were the flashbacks. Not only did some (not all, but some) seem redundant to the overall storyline, but they also started to feel interruptive of the story as the climax approached. The Lies of Locke Lamora is constructed with an interlude between every chapter, with each chapter containing several sub-chapters, but once I was acquainted with Locke’s backstory, I wanted to fully settle into the present of the book, not dwell in the past.
As I pushed through the descriptive passages and the slow beginning, which may be a turn-off for some of you, I discovered an intriguing story, a delight of scheming, backstabbing, violence, and adrenaline-spiking action with merciless assholes for heroes. The Lies of Locke Lamora is dark, gory, and unforgiving, and therefore highly recommended to anyone – ideally not on the faint-hearted side – dwelling in the fantasy genre.