Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a fantasy crime novel by Scott Lynch. You follow the story of Locke Lamora, a master con artist leading his band of thieves. It's recently been promoted quite a bit thanks to the author's third release. Here's the blurb:

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a ghost that walks through walls. Half the city believes him to be a legendary champion of the poor. The other half believe him to be a foolish myth. Nobody has it quite right.
Slightly built, unlucky in love, and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. He certainly didn't invite the rumors that swirl around his exploits, which are actually confidence games of the most intricate sort. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else, pray tell, would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny of it. All of Locke's gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards.

Locke and company are con artists in an age where con artistry, as we understand it, is a new and unknown style of crime. The less attention anyone pays to them, the better! But a deadly mystery has begun to haunt the ancient city of Camorr, and a clandestine war is threatening to tear the city's underworld, the only home the Gentlemen Bastards have ever known, to bloody shreds. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends will find both their loyalty and their ingenuity tested to the breaking point as they struggle to stay alive...

Read on for my full review.

Overall Impression
This book was very good. It's actually interesting that it's a series as the first book ended so neatly. The characters, especially the main one- Lock Lamora, are fascinating and very fun to read. The plot is fast and keeps you on your toes as you never know what to expect. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and all aspects of it and will be continuing the series in the years to come.

The plot is action-packed and fast-paced. There is a lot of tension build up within the story. There are times when Locke and the gang have gotten in way over their heads, but they manage to just barely escape... only to land in an even worse situation than before! This keeps you glued to the story to see how the characters will fare.

The author cycles back and forth in time throughout the story. For example, as the characters are pulling of a heist, the story cycles between the execution and the preparation behind it. There are also quite a few "Interludes" throughout the story where the author goes way back to when Locke and his gang was much younger or even back to "historical" events in the world. Sometimes this can feel out of place, but usually the next chapter incorporates some aspect of the interlude so it works quite nicely. 

The main character in this novel is, not surprisingly, Locke Lamora. He is a master thief, though his specialty is in confidence games. He is a brilliant actor that can convince anyone he is a noble, a merchant, a priest, or whatever he needs to be in order to get the money. He is a bit reckless, but is utterly loyal to his gang. He is something like a Robin Hood type character in that he steals from the rich, however, he keeps the wealth for himself! The author manages to create a very likable yet believable character. The other characters are all secondary, but still cool and interesting.

Setting / World Building
This story is set in a fantasy world, specifically in the city of Camorr, an analog of Renaissance-era Venice. At first, we don't see much outright magic in the world. However, we do get a magical impression of the city. There are many structures built by an extinct race, the Eldren. These structures are made of Elderglass, which is like glass but unbreakable. It also glows briefly at night which makes it very cool. One of the secondary characters is also a skilled alchemist, but exactly how magical this is not clear. Most of it appears to be clever use of plant materials.

In the second half of the story and in a Interlude, we encounter the bondsmagi. However, we don't know too much about them and what their powers are. We do know that they are very expensive to hire and have very powerful and unique magic, but exactly what their limits are is not shown in this book. It appears that some of their magic is based on knowing a person's name, but there is clearly more than that.

A particularly interesting aspect of the setting is that by being a city close to the ocean we have a culture that revolves around that. In most typical fantasies, we have a more pastoral setting and characters talk about farming or sheep or wolves or horses. In The Lies of Locke Lamora, sharks hold a key place in the mythos of some of the religions in the book. Some characters wear sharkskin clothing rather than the more "traditional" leather. There's also a spectacle-type event with people fighting sharks while on platforms so it's part of the entertainment, and hazards, of the city.

Final Thoughts
This was an excellent book and a great counterpoint to the last book I read (a detective novel). The characters and plot are top-notch and the setting is quite interesting too. While this is part of a series, this book feels very complete. I'm not sure how the story will progress beyond the first book, but there is at least one element left open that I think may be addressed. I will certainly be reading the other books in this series.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked your blog and agree that Scott Lynch has created a very magical setting for this story. I loved this book. It was full of suspense, intrigue and brilliant story telling. Although violent in parts and with some swearing I still thought it was a worthwhile great read. I also thought the flashbacks to how the Locke and his friends got to where they were and developed under Chains was a different aspect to the book and broke up the action. It all linked in perfectly.
    I recently reviewed this book also and if you would like to read my review and have a chat further about this book you can find it on