Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Camorr - orphan, thief, priest of Perelandro, con artist, master of disguise, liar extraordinaire.  When we first meet Locke, he is but six years old and already displaying a gift for theft.  Picked up by the Thiefmaker, who takes orphans and molds them into uncatchable pickpockets living in the catacombs beneath the city of Camorr, the boy is soon too much for the old man to handle and he is sold to the Father of Chains.  In a long-running con, Chains purports to be an eyeless priest of Perelandro, Lord of the Overlooked. In fact, he is carefully cultivating a crew of young master thieves and he is eager to add young Locke to his team.

Some years later, Chains is gone and Locke is running the crew, known as the Gentlemen Bastards and comprised of the Sanza twins, Calo and Galdo, big Jean Tannen and young Bug.  They live in Chains's old hideout in the lap of luxury, taking thousands of crowns off the unwitting nobles of Camorr and paying their dues to the criminal overlord of the city, Capa Barsavi.  They hardly spend any of what they steal - they do it for the thrill, the excitement of carefully planning and carrying out complex heists.  It's a good life, they live like brothers, and Locke is the mastermind behind it all.  But soon a new power comes to the city, threatening the status quo: the Gray King is killing off Capa Barsavi's gang-leaders and has apparently set his sights on the capa's seat of power.  Before long, Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards find themselves caught up in the plotting and cons-within-cons, and their world is going to get a lot bloodier before it gets better.

Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is an engaging high fantasy novel, intricately plotted with memorable, well-developed characters.  The story moves on two prongs: the narrative's present, in which the Gentlemen Bastards are dealing with Barsavi, the Gray King and a long con of their own; and alternating flashback chapters to Locke's childhood growing up with Chains, the Sanza twins and Jean.  The flashbacks give nice depth and back-story to the current time's players, as well as a glimpse into the well-built world Lynch has constructed.

It's fast-paced and clever and I enjoyed it quite a lot, with only a minor quibble: some of the dialogue seemed a bit modern for this pre-industrial fantasy world.  The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first of Lynch's Gentlemen Bastard Sequence; the second is Red Seas under Red Skies, and then there are supposed to be a whole bunch more coming, but Lynch hasn't gotten around to writing them yet.  Great, just what I needed - to get hooked on another never-ending fantasy series.  Still, TLoLL is quite entertaining and a good read.

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