The Lies of Locke Lamora ~ Scott Lynch

  • Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
  • Author: Scott Lynch
  • Series: Gentleman Bastards #1
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 6 out of 5

Description:  The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves. The Gentleman Bastards.

The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they have ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive…

Review: Can I give this book six stars? Please? Because I really, really want to give it six stars.

Look, I don’t know how I come across as a reviewer, whether I’m too picky with some books or too easily pleased at others. I’ve given four or five stars to books where in hindsight they probably didn’t quite deserve it, but since that’s how I felt at the time the rating stays.

But then sometimes a book comes along that just makes you weep with envy at the sheer brilliance of it, and this was one of them. This is one of these books that make me never want to take up a pen (or keyboard) ever again, because I’ll never even come within a thousand leagues of its genius.

When it comes to fantasy I’m probably a bit behind the times. There are many contemporary fantasy writers I’ve never heard of, never mind read. So maybe this review is entirely superfluous, because I’m one of the two people in fantasy-reader-land who had not yet read this book. I don’t care, because now that I’ve finished it, I need to vent my admiration.

I knew I was going to love this book when, within the first twenty pages or so, it quite unapologetically lets a man buy thirty orphaned children and tell them they’re lucky he bought them, because otherwise they’d be chained to oars or sucking cocks soon enough. Camorr, the city-state where the entire book takes place, resembles Venice at its most debauched, a city where the rich nobility live like kings, the poor scrape by with whatever they can get, the middle-class make their money with whatever merchantry they do best and thieves are hung from the bridges, even if they’re children. At Camorr’s underbelly are the thieves, the Right People, ruled just as certainly by the thief king Capa Barsavi as the nobility is ruled by Duke Nicovante.

The world-building is intricate, and the style of the book opulent, with vivid descriptions of the city and its customs so that you get a better insight at how Camorr works every time it happens. It’s only later in the book when you realise that this also cleverly seeds in bits of information that hit you with a flash of insight just at the right moment, to help you understand what’s going on.

The book starts when Locke is about five, then jumps to when he is around mid-twenties. From then on it jumps backwards and forwards between now and the past. This could be confusing, but to me it was enlightening, because every time such a flashback occurs it gives you a further insight into what’s happening. Criticisms of the book have said that it drags at the start, but I found all the background information fascinating, and Locke’s ingenious schemes and heists always had me grinning from ear to ear. Morally you could have doubts about the whole thing, of course – Locke is a thief to the core, and entirely unapologetic about robbing the nobility of half their fortune if he can get away with it. Did I care? Not one whit. I don’t read books to feel morally righteous, I read books because they entertain me, and few have entertained me as well as this one did.

Don’t ask me about the plot. If the book blurb doesn’t grab you, then me describing the plot won’t either, and to give anything away would diminish its impact when you read it. Just pick it up and immerse yourself in it, then find yourself drawn deeper and deeper into Locke’s web of lies, subterfuge and – ultimately – lethal trouble.

I have no idea whether anyone has ever been tempted by a book after reading my review, but if anyone were to ask me what book – out of all the ones I’ve reviewed – I’d most recommend to people, it’d be this one. Sheer genius.