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Publication date – June 26, 2007
Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Orphan Locke Lamora leads elite thieves “Gentlemen Bastards” trained by priest Chains. In Venice-like city, as the “Thorn of Camorr”, he stings the wealthy nobles. But the Gray King kills mobster Capa Barsavi’s trusted, and uses Locke as his pawn to take control. Locke vows revenge, but is best skilled at lies. His opponent has more money, men, and power.
Thoughts: The best books are the hardest to review, because it’s difficult to be objective when all you want to do is rave about how awesome the book was, how captivating and engaging the plot was, how smooth the pacing, how amazing was the whole package and how you didn’t want to put it down when the story was finished.
This is one of those books.
If you haven’t yet read The Lies of Locke Lamora, you’re missing out. While it doesn’t have many of the classic elements associated with fantasy (indeed, it seems to stop at rare magics and commentary on an ancient civilization who left an architectural legacy behind), it is unmistakably fantasy, throwing you into a new world with new cultures and interesting people, with inspiration taken from various European cultures in the way of most fantasy, making for a comfortable and familiar setting that allows the reader to focus entirely on the exciting plot without having to pick up the nuances of a vastly different culture.
Not that doing so is a bad thing. But the European influence works well here, and the familiarity really did let me put my focus on the fast and tight plot that was unfolding. Lynch does some wonderful world-building, layering piece upon piece until not only do you have an interesting culture in Camorr, but also a believable one. It’s a city of hidden corruption, hands stabbing as often as shaking, the unwary losing their fortunes or their lives just as easily as they once kept both. But it’s not a crapsack world where everything is dark and horrible; there’s light and hope and fun and all the positive and negative things that make up the life of a busy city of commerce and culture.
The story, naturally, centres around Locke Lamora, orphan and thief with a flair for the dramatic. No score is too big for him, no scheme too complex. If it involves disguising himself as a rich merchant in order to con nobles out of their money, well, all the better! Locke’s sense daring nature is one of the things that makes this book so incredible; you can’t help but admire the guy. He’s the quintessential lovable rogue, the charismatic thief whose clandestine dealings are nothing but thrills and adventure. Even when he’s robbing people blind and scaring them into silence, you can’t help but root for him.
The way the story is told takes a little getting used to, with each chapter followed by an interlude that sometimes tells some of Locke’s childhood and training, sometimes the training of another of Locke’s friends, sometimes little stories and explanations of things in Camorri culture. It isn’t confusing so long as you can keep holding the main plot in your mind, and the back-and-forth method of storytelling is one that I’m quickly coming to enjoy, since it allows for the conveying of greater amounts of information without an awkward infodump or long stretch of exposition that isn’t always in character or situationally appropriate. It doesn’t always work, but I’m finding more examples of ways where it does, and this is most assuredly one of them. In the end, between character conversations and the interludes of backstory, you have the bulk of a character’s life laid out before you, and for revealing things little by little, it works wonders.
The characters… Again, it’s hard to describe some things without going over the top with praise. The characters are a delight to read about. Calo and Galdo, witty twins with somewhat crude senses of humour who finish each other’s sentences. Jean, loyal, tough as nails and with a temper you don’t want to mess with. Locke himself, loyal and quick-witted and creative and not one to suffer a slight without giving back at least as good as he got. The antagonists are well-developed, each other their own stories and complete personalities, and are just as interesting to read about. The only exception might be the Bondsmage, whom we don’t learn too much about except for what we learn about Bondsmages in general, but that was less bad character development and more of the deliberate mystery built up around his character and his profession.
Trust me, if you haven’t taken the time to read this book, you need to correct that. from beginning to end, it was a fast-paced and amazing adventure, one that’s worth every second you spend on it. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s one of the closest to perfect that I’ve ever read. And I hear the rest of the series is just as good or better, and I can’t wait to dive into book 2, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and sink into Locke’s world once again.