Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Series: The Gentleman Bastard (#1)

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Brutal, Thieving Fantasy

Pages: 531

Rating: 9.5/10

 

Some day, Locke Lamora,” he said, “some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope that I’m still around to see it.

Warning: If you hate expletives, perhaps this book is not for you. But damn, do they add to the atmosphere.

Summary: Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn of Camorr. Far from being an unbeatable swordsman and friend to the poor, however, Locke is skinny, terrible with a sword and keeps all the riches for himself and his Gentleman Bastards (though they don’t know what to do with it). What Locke Lamora does have, however, is brains and the balls to go through with complicated schemes.

But when the Gentleman Bastards begin the Don Salvara game, they get caught up in another, more murderous game. Suddenly, they’re not in control, and they’re struggling to stay alive.

Review: Wow. Just wow. I feel as though I’ve been hit across the face with a sledgehammer after reading this book. I was blown away by how good it is.

Firstly, the worldbuilding is amazing. You can really tell that Lynch’s world is lovingly crafted, and that he’s really thought about the cultures and religions, as well as the history of the city. I particularly liked the fact that Camorr was built on the ruins of an old alien culture, the Eldren, and that no one really knows what happened to them. All that’s left behind of them are structures made of Elderglass, a substance unable to be destroyed by human hands and that generates its own light. Very interesting, really.

The only thing I would say about the worldbuilding is that I really wished there was a map included at the beginning of the book. I sometimes felt a little bit lost when Lynch was describing one of the districts of Camorr, and a map would greatly have helped with that. Also, Lynch tends to describe the city a lot, so if that’s not your kind of thing be prepared for it. It was noticeable, but not too distracting; it did, however, occasionally jolt me out of the story when I was trying to get everything straightened up in my head. Like I said, a map of Camorr would do wonders (and this is the main reason why I knocked off 0.5 of a point).

I felt that Scott Lynch’s narrative structure was very brave. The main story is interspersed with flashbacks into the past, when Locke and the other Gentleman Bastards were receiving their education. On top of that, sometimes the main action is presented out of chronological order, so the reader believes one thing has happened, and then we are shown the events leading up to it and so learn what truly happened. If you are not prepared for it, it can be a little confusing. The prologue, for example, threw me off a little because I wasn’t expecting the timeline jumping. When I got used to it, however, I really appreciated how clever it was. Scott Lynch isn’t spoon-feeding his readers. You have to work your brain and pay attention to this book, and I revelled in the challenge.

I also liked that sometimes there were little mini-chapters describing bits of the culture, especially as those little mini-chapters became relevent in the main story more often than not. Even if they hadn’t become all that relevant, I enjoyed them for what they were: another piece of the fabric of the world Lynch has created. It is kind of like watching a tapestry unfurl in front of you, piece by bloody, fantastical piece.

On top of that, the writing style was wonderful to read. There were beautiful, gritty, vivid descriptions of the city, but there were moments of witty humour and deft wordsmithing too. The wittiness came through in the narrative, not just through Locke’s mouth, which I liked a lot. I liked feeling Lynch’s personality infused in the narrative of the story, as though I was being told a tale, a tale of an extraordinary man.

And Locke is an extraordinary man. Sure, he has a lot of failings. He’s terrible in a fight, he doesn’t quite think through the consequences of his actions (though it’s a lesson many people try to beat into him), and he doesn’t know when to shut his mouth. (He really doesn’t know when to shut his mouth.) You know those protagonists that taunt the villain when they’re in pretty deep trouble? Yeah. Locke puts all those protagonists to shame. However, despite his failings, he has some pretty good virtues too. Loyalty to his friends. An extraordinary brain. Some of the schemes he comes up with are so ludicrous, so complex and so damn ballsy, that you can’t help watching them unfold with your jaw dropped open.

It’s not just Locke that’s an amazing character, though. Jean Tannen. Calo and Galdo. Bug. Father Chains. Don and Dona Salvara. Capa Barsavi. The Grey King. The Falconer. The whole cast of characters are memorable, three-dimensional and unforgettable.

And another thing. No one’s safe. This book ripped my heart out, stomped all over it, and then sewed it back into my chest so it could do it all over again. And I loved it.

This is the first book in a projected series of seven books, but it also works as a standalone. This is a rare quality in a book that is part of a longer series, and a refreshing one. Loose ends are tied up. We’re not left hanging. The story is pretty much bundled up in one neat package. But there is potential for more and, trust me, by the end of this first book, you’ll want to spend another book with the Gentleman Bastards.

This is a debut novel that I was truly blown away by. If this is what Scott Lynch can do as a first effort, I can’t wait to see what he does with the gift of more experience

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