Monday, September 5, 2016

The Lies of Locke Lamora Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Scott Lynch
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Gentleman Bastard Book One
Pages: 719

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I Only Steal Because My Dear Old Family Needs Money To Live 

Locke Lamora is an orphan in the corrupt city of Camorr. Growing up a small-time pick-pocket with reckless ambition, he eventually becomes known as The Thorn of Camorr, a master thief. Working with his small team of Gentleman Bastards, he serves the city's crime lord Barsavi, paying him a pittance, while working on larger and grander heists involving the city's nobility. Locke's successes are put in danger when Barsavi and his underground empire goes to war with a new powerful presence styling himself as the Gray King.

I was reluctant to start reading The Gentleman Bastard series, mainly because it's author, Scott Lynch, has joined Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin in the "we publish books as slowly as possible" club. That's not to say I wouldn't have read it, I was just originally planning on waiting for all the books to be published first, rather than inevitably turn into another frustrated fan in story-waiting hell.

But Scott Lynch being candid about how depression impacted his writing process really resonated with me, especially as someone who's had to deal with that problem myself. And of course there's always the chance that a fantasy series may never be finished, due to low sales, not that Scott Lynch is going to have this problem  - his series is very successful - but I believe it's better to support a series (if possible) while it's being written, changed my mind. That and a story about a thief struggling to overcome the odds of a political, economic, and magic system that's working against him in every way imaginable really makes it hard to wait.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is told in two parts: the pasts of Locke and his best friend Jean, and the present as these two run the Gentleman Bastards. Beginning with Locke's past, Lynch throws up one of the most intriguing and instantly addicting intro's ever to be written in the genre. The rest of the story, especially the parts written in the present, pretty much follows that pace. Locke is neither an excellent fighter, or even the smartest character in his own gang, but he is the best liar. And it's the concept of lying, and the fact that Locke's lies are so good, that makes this book a real rewarding read, especially if you like being rewarded for paying attention to all the little details.

Character development, at least for the main characters is done real well. Locke, is flushed out well even though you're only seeing a portion of the character's life. A few other character growth opportunities like a potential love interest and a mysterious past are introduced to the readers, but will obviously be explored in future books. Capa Barsavi and his daughter Nazca make a memorable introduction, and the Gray King is a rightfully motivated and dangerous antagonist. The best character that isn't Locke is his mentor Father Chains. The leader of the Gentleman Bastards and Locke's mentor in his early life spends his time pretending to be a blind priest and panhandler. While giving sage advice that's morally questionable at best, he is essential to shaping Locke into the man he becomes.

Character development for the supporting characters is probably the weakest point in Lynch's novel, especially with the Gentleman Bastards not named Locke and Jean. Bug, the young kid who wants to officially join the group comes off like your stereotypical "loyal and trying hard to impress his elders" street urchin, and the twins Calo and Galdo, are just another pair of twins finishing each other's sentences. These are small complaints, there is only so much you can do in a story like this, and the major parts are definitely nailed on the head.

I was reminded of Brandon Sanderson ... a lot. There are heists, detailed schemes, and fast moving action sequences, except, unlike Sanderson, the characters swear, and generally the conversations remind me of conversations that adults would have rather than thirteen year-olds wearing adult bodies. If you like Sanderson, especially the original Mistborn Trilogy, you'll be very much at home reading Scott Lynch.

Score: 9.4

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