on 2 June 2012
The Thorn of Camorr is a legendary master swordsman, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. He is also a complete fabrication. Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn and whilst adept at stealing from the rich - after all only they have anything worth stealing, he never really got to grips with the giving to the poor bit. When it comes to swordplay, he's only a danger to himself. He does have enough wit and cunning to make up for his lack of physical prowess and his companion Jean Tannen is more than handy with a blade if trouble comes calling.
Whilst in the middle of an elaborate confidence scam, Locke is dragged into a bloody power struggle within the Camarr underworld. Capa Barsavi wants Locke to accompany him to a meeting in order to kill a shadowy rival, the Grey King. Unfortunately the Grey King has discovered Locke's talent for dissembling and wants Locke to impersonate him for a meeting with the Capa...
The Lies Of Locke Lamora is the debut novel of Scott Lynch, but from the quality of the writing you'd be hard pressed to tell. The opening with the Thieftaker and Chains in masterfully done, brilliantly setting the tone for what follows. The story is told with great economy and skill, fair rattling along at a good pace with a minimum of exposition.
The unfolding plot is interwoven with interludes to Locke's formative years, deftly illustrating his rise from cocky street urchin under the thumb of the thieftaker to become the leader of the Gentleman Bastards. These interludes also lay the foundations for his enduring friendships and flesh out the other members of his gang quite admirably.
If you like the Hustle tv show, don't mind a bucketload of swearing and enjoy a fast-paced action packed romp through a beautifully rendered city, you'll love this. The Lies Of Locke Lamora (*****) is well worth checking out, but probably a bit too sweary for your maiden aunt.
on 31 December 2010
This is a fabulous book. While it's a fantasy, set in a Venice-a-like mediaeval city but with added "alchemy" serving for basic science, a very small amount of very powerful magic, and a Mysterious Elder Race, it is consistent and believable. In this it is helped by there being lots of squalor, filth and fear - mediaeval life was thoroughly squalid and life was awful for almost everyone. The one place where the scene-setting falls down is a very minor one that most people won't notice, that a city of 88,000 can support 3,000 full-time professional criminals. While 3.5% of the population being criminals is believable, having them at it full time is not. But never mind, it's a tiny point, and it is necessary for the drama. This is fiction, not economics, so I'll let it be.
Most of the city's background is filled in in flashbacks, a device that can be intensely irritating, but in this case it works well, because most of the flashbacks are strictly relevant to the part of the main line of the story that immediately precedes them, and they are well-told little stories in themselves. I'd not be surprised if some of them had earlier been published as stand-alone short stories. Almost all of the main characters' development as people happens in these flashbacks too, and they really are people.
The main story has two strands, starting with the eponymous hero plotting and carrying out an outrageous advance fee fraud. Over time, another strand comes in, of the city's capo di capi having a rival, of the tussle between them, and Lamora's involvement in their fight. Both are portrayed realistically and are skilfully woven together to meet at the climax. And while this is the first in a series of planned books, it stands up very well on its own.
I very strongly recommend this book. It is a masterpiece of construction and story-telling, of balance between light and dark and between humour and deadly-seriousness. And most importantly, it's great fun.
on 4 May 2013
I absolutley love this book and have read it several times.It is just the right length and the main characters are rogues but you really warm to them very quickly.A brill read if you like fantasy without any dragons,magic etc.
on 11 October 2009
Locke Lamora is the Thorn of Camorr, leader of the Gentlemen Bastards, a master thief who robs the nobility of that city-state with grand breath-taking plans. He and his gang hide not only from the police but from the leader of the underworld who knows hims as just another 'garrista' of a small, unimportant gang. But a private war that suddenly in the city's underworld has Locke and his band fighting for their lives.
This book has a wonderful setting, crossing an Italian renaissance city with aspects of The Godfather and the grimier scenes from Dickens. Locke and his Gentlemen Bastards are great characters, carrying out their schemes with wonderful flair, and when the excrement starts hitting the rotating ceiling-mounted air-circulation device, you really care about them. Especially when the 'bondsmage', the Falconer starts to get his hands on them.
Lynch dropped several hints about the background to the city-state of Camorr and the long-vanished race that created the towering edifices that mankind has inherited. While curious to find out more about this, I recognise that sometimes backstory is just treated as such and left alone.
A great story, well-told with a wonderfully vivid setting. And although it's the first in a sequence, the story is wrapped up neatly so you aren't left hanging.
on 17 April 2015
I love getting into new books and authors, particularly when they are as good, well-written and colourful as this one. In the beginning, there is an element of nervousness as you begin to learn this new author's voice. Then, moving along, with each laugh, gasp and the number of marked quotes building up, the pages turn into excitement.
And that's exactly what happened to me here. I'd heard great things about Lynch and this series as a whole, so I went into reading this waiting for all those great things to happen. I had my first laugh just 2 pages in. The further I got into the book, the more I laughed and the more I started to sympathise with the characters. I just loved Locke's exploits! This boy isn't perfect and when he screws up, he royally screws up. But he is intelligent, a thinker, with a wonderful sense of humour. He’s the sort of person I imagine I might be, if I were a thief…!
But then Mr. Lynch goes and spoils it all, doesn’t he? This is one author here who isn’t afraid to shed any blood… Seriously, for anyone who is too sentimental about their reading, don’t go here, or you might just find yourself spending the rest of your life weeping. Yet perhaps he does redeem himself in this respect, by also showing that even the most perfect of characters, with all their skill, still have a weakness, a flaw. And the twists and the ultimate victory don’t have the outcome you would have expected, either.
I think, however, the ultimate redeeming factor is the number of quotes I’ve marked off (I’ve just started using Post-It mini tag things, as they’re less damaging to books than any other method I’ve found so far).
Now let’s just hope the sequel lives up to my expectations, too!
on 12 April 2007
A truly excellent read. The characters are well-defined and above all, enjoyable to spend time with. The complexity of the scams pulled by the Gentlemen Bastards keeps you gripped, and a perfect sense of comic timing (despite the fact that this is certainly not a comedy) had me laughing out loud at points.
The whole book had me itching to continue reading. Not just to see how the whole story panned out, but sheer desperation to see what happens on the next page, in the next chapter. It literally pulls you through this breakneck adventure, and leaves you happily exhausted by the end of it.
The style of writing and attention to detail in terms of setting up this ancient city are superlative, and I can't remember being so engrossed by a new fantasy world since I first stumbled upon China Mieville.
Can't recommend this strongly enough.
on 24 December 2013
The story actually reminded me of The Way of Shadows series by Brent Weeks, only with a more formal tone. Locke and his friends together form The Gentleman Bastards, a small gang dedicated to pulling elaborate stunts and ruses to do what no other criminal will - steal from the nobility. They make an interesting, perfectly balanced group: Locke is the mastermind behind every one of their escapades, Jean cannot be bested in a fight, Calo and Galo are a set of super sneaky twins and Bug is their errand boy, slowly being initiated into the trade.
I genuinely believe that a strong set of friendships can make any book. Royce and Hadrian in Theft of Swords, or Sparkhawk and Kalten in The Elenium series by David Eddings. Even Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in the Lord of the Rings films. When a bond between certain characters is so strong that it's almost tangible, it makes the reader so much more invested in everything they do.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is perfect, in that respect. I found the characters flat and lifeless for the first two thirds of the book but when the narrative began to reveal how they all interlinked, my opinion of the book as a whole went way up. They don't really start to take shape until this point, but afterwards they're some of the best characters I've ever seen. They work together so well and I can't wait to rejoin them in the next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies.
The world-building is unbelievably well thought-out, but it almost goes too far in the opposite direction. The plot is broken up by interludes, which are basically just lengthy, long-winded essays on the city's history shoved in for background information. That's fine in theory, but they're really frequent and usually not necessary or relevant at all. By two thirds of the way through, I'd stopped giving them my full attention and just skim-red.
It's also very jumpy time-wise. For example, we might jump in to the middle of a stunt, then go back to the preparation of the stunt, then back to the middle and then way back to travelling to the stunt. I understand that it's necessary sometimes, in an Ocean's Eleven-style, 'this is how we did it' kind of way. It's just too convoluted and sometimes it's difficult working out when/where you are as the time shifts aren't always clearly noted.
I keep referencing the two thirds point of The Lies of Locke Lamora, I know, but it really does feel like everything changes at that point. I'd struggled to get in to the story, the plot was bogged down by description, the characters were flat... it wasn't great, to be honest. But after that point... wow. It becomes a truly amazing novel. All the problems with it were magically fixed and I didn't want to do anything but sit there and read it.
I bumped up my rating from three stars to four, just on the strength of the ending. It's perfect. Clever and perfect. It's one of the best-written (and perfect!) endings I have ever read. I finished it at 2am and just had to sit there and process everything that had happened. I obviously can't discuss it too much, but it hit me hard in several different ways.
To conclude, read The Lies of Locke Lamora but STICK WITH IT. It is hard going for a while but I promise that it does pay off. It could do with being 100 pages or so shorter (by condensing the interludes, perhaps) but the wonderful characters, enthralling plot and perfect ending easily made it one of my favourite books of 2013.
on 17 October 2013
'The Lies of Locke Lamora' - the first instalment in the Gentlemen Bastard Sequence - belongs to that brilliant breed of fantasy that relies more on clever plotting, suspense and characterisation than on spectacular magic and obsessive world-building. It's full to bursting with thieves and murderers, gangs and torturers, cons and disguises, swearing and revenge.
And sharks. Plenty of sharks.
The story follows a small band of thieves known as the Gentlemen Bastards as they initiate an elaborate confidence scheme on a wealthy couple. Despite months of planning, the scheme is soon jeopardised by a new crime boss known only as the Grey King. His arrival in the city - along with that of the powerful Bondsmage working for him - brings terror, blackmail and murder, and heralds the beginning of disaster for the Gentlemen Bastards.
One of my favourite aspects of 'The Lies of Locke Lamora' is the characters, who are morally grey yet somehow sympathetic. Locke, our main protagonist, is a thief, and yet at no point do we think of him as a `bad' person: it's a lifestyle he's forced into at a very young age. The fact that he turns thieving into a fine art as he gets older is the novel's main source of entertainment, and the author completely draws us into Locke's elaborately clever and outrageous schemes. The rest of the Gentlemen Bastards are very likeable too - Bug is endearingly young, brave and desperate to prove himself, while the mischievous twins Calo and Galdo provide some amusing banter and friendly insults - but Jean Tannen is the only member of the group aside from Locke who is really fleshed out as an individual, mainly through the use of flashbacks.
The author makes use of flashbacks and interludes very effectively, using them to reveal important parts of the mythology of Camorr, as well as to illustrate how the relationship between the central characters developed over the years. These interludes are interposed very frequently throughout the entire novel, and are used effectively to build tension and reveal certain things about the plot at strategic moments. They do occasionally meander in ways that diminish rather than heighten the suspense, but are mainly very relevant and interesting.
The characters are complex and fascinating (Jean is as well-read and good at maths as he is deadly with his hatchets, while Locke himself alternates between the roles of Thorn, common thief and saviour of the city), the action is bloody and gripping, and the plot has more twists and turns than the tunnels under Shades Hill. What more can you ask for in a debut novel?
Locke Lamora is an orphan, raised in a gang of thieves and given over to a priest/con-man who teaches him and a small group of chosen young children to be trained as one of a group of Gentlemen Bastards. This is fantasy, of course, with an alternate world in which we vaguely recognise elements from varying different times and places. Lamora and his cohorts are a likeable bunch, with good qualities alongside their love of stealing and violence. The book is slightly long winded in places, with long flashbacks which do not always add much to the plot. Also, although the priest has set his group of young thieves on a path to concoct elaborate plots and amass great wealth, they do not seem to use the money for much. As a group, they seem slightly stuck in a vacuum, working for more and more money, but not really getting much from it apart from the joy of the chase.
The plot of the book is long and involved, with many different characters either posing as other people, seeking vengeance and being involved in various plots and side stories. Lamora basically has many people after his life and has to try to dodge through various dangers, while attempting to keep his group together and in one piece. There are magical elements, extreme violence, a great deal of intrigue, action and edge of the seat excitement, as the author expertly weaves a complicated plot together. Although this is a great action adventure story, I did think the characters were slightly weak in places - we know where Locke Lamora comes from for example, but little of what he feels about it. However, this is apparently a series of books and the author may address deeper character detail in future books. If you like a lot of action and fast paced writing, with dark fantasy and a touch of crime, this is the book for you.
on 25 April 2007
I'll keep this simple. Buy this book. This is a fantastic romp that really does make you read it at any opportunity you can get. I could hear it calling me when I was at work. I couldn't sleep until I'd just read one more chapter ... I can't recommend it enough - it's the best book I've read in years (probably since Julian May's The Many Coloured Land). It's not classic fantasy but that really does not matter. Just buy it, take a day or two off work and enjoy. I don't need to go into the plot, the characters or the writing. If you're interested enough to be reading this review then just take my word for it. You really will get to laugh, cry, plot, plan and be amazed by Locke Lamora and the Gentlemen Bastards ...
I always like to know what other authors people read when I am checking a review so to help you, my taste in books runs from SF authors such as Peter Hamilton, Iain Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Richard Morgan, fantasy writers including Raymond Feist, R Scott Bakker, Julian May, Steven Erikson, George RR Martin, Tad Williams, Dan Simmons and other good storytellers such as Christopher Brookmyre, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Fowler, Matthew Reilly, Clive Barker, Michael Crichton.