The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the first in the Gentleman Bastard sequence, a seven-book fantasy series following expert con-artist Locke Lamora (aka the Thorn of Camorr) as he and his gang, the Gentlemen Bastards, perform intricate tricks on the unsuspecting nobility of the ancient city of Camorr to get their money from them. But a war in Camorr’s lively underworld – and the fact that someone powerful is now close on the Thorn’s tail – threatens to pull all their plans apart in the most unexpected of ways.
I picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora on a friend’s recommendation, though it took me years to actually read it once I got my hands on a copy. I’m very glad to have finally read it; it’s an engrossing book as filled with twists and turns as light-hearted, entertaining moments.
But I’m going to start off by being critical.
I’d like to say that the world is one of the stand-out features of this novel, however my copy (a 2007 UK edition) includes no maps, and although a map of Camorr can be found online, no world map yet exists, which makes things quite confusing. Lynch mentions a number of other places, and I struggled to keep track of which one was which, what type of place each was (a city state? A region of somewhere? A completely different kingdom? An entire continent?) and work out where each was in relation to Camorr. Since I didn’t look up the map of Camorr until I was at least halfway through the book, I was also easily confused over which district of the city was which, as there are a great many of them, and there are very few which aren’t at least referenced at some point.
I also found some of the book quite slow. The first fifty to a hundred pages, for example, are for the most part taken up by the current heist that the Gentlemen Bastards are working on, and while it does show their skill and their attention to detail, I didn’t find it that engaging, and I can’t help but wonder if some of it couldn’t have been cut down. Some of the interludes telling stories from Locke’s childhood and the world’s history are also quite slow, especially since their relevance to the main story isn’t immediately obvious, or obvious at all, in some cases.
In addition, Lynch seemed determined to give the reader the whole story, whether or not this particular part of the story was actually interesting or not. This was evidenced by the inclusion of the first fifty to a hundred pages, and a long section in which Locke attempts to procure a set of clothes. Admittedly, if anyone is capable of making something mundane like this interesting, it’s going to be the ingenious and slightly eccentric Locke Lamora, but while it was entertaining in parts, I still don’t think it necessitated an entire twenty-five pages.
Alright, time for the positives!
The world that Lynch has created for this series is quite different from any other fantasy world I’ve heard of before. With its network of trade routes and built-up cities, it certainly seems more modern than your typical (often medieval-inspired) fantasy world. I really liked the fact that most of the things we find different from our world stem from alchemy – which is treated as a kind of science – rather than magic. The alchemical trees, alchemical teas, and alchemical light globes certainly helped the world feel more advanced than other fantasy worlds, and, I felt, gave it a unique edge. Then there’s the Eldren, the ancient but long-gone race that inhabited Camorr long before humans did, whose otherworldly buildings lend Camorr an extra feeling of magic and mystery.
The characters are certainly a huge driving factor of this book, and they create a great number of entertaining situations. Lynch did a great job crafting the banter between the Gentlemen Bastards; their brotherly relationships are very believable, and their conversations are often great fun to read. They also make for great protagonists; I found them very easy to root for.
The best part of the book was undoubtedly the previously-mentioned middle-of-the-book-climax and the lead-up to it, before things got too serious. This section was the most enjoyable to read and the middle-of-the-book-climax had more tension than the actual climax. The actual climax was surprising, but left me wondering where the rest of the series could possibly go, since there are so few loose ends.
Overall, The Lies of Locke Lamora was an entertaining and enjoyable read, and though there are parts of Lynch’s storytelling which I’m not a fan of, I really liked the world, the characters and their mischief, and the writing style itself. I recommend this for anyone looking for a fun heist-like book, or a unique fantasy with a great setting. Although it is the first in a series, it seems to work well as a standalone, so if that’s something you’re looking for, this is a book to consider.
Have you read The Lies of Locke Lamora? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!
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