The Lies of Locke Lamora
By: Scott Lynch
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 annoyane, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed still 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 Gentlemen Bastards.
The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they’ve 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…
I actually first read The Lies of Locke Lamora back in 2008 and liked it enough. I decided to re-read it again recently as I was a little bored figuring out which book from my to-read list to read next and I was in the mood for a standalone fantasy (which is very difficult to find). This book is actually the first in The Gentlemen Bastards Sequence but I find that this novel works quite well as a standalone. And it’s a good novel overall.
One of the aspects fo this novel that really stood out for me was the city of Camorr and the life and society that Locke and his friends live in. Camorr comes across as a bit out of Venezia/Italian Renaissance period but focusing on the dark side of life (the thieving, the rules amongst gangs, etc.). The streets, the different public squares and quarters, the boats going up and down the canals…Camorr really comes to its own as a character of the book thanks to Lynch’s writing. Additionally, I like that Lynch does lay out the different regions around Camorr, expanding on the world-building (the historian part of me was greatly impressed). He doesn’t provide a map to show the world that Locke lives in but the places that are mentioned feel familiar, which was impressive but refreshing at the same time.
The characters come across as memorable. Locke is an interesting character from the very start, a mix of a wunderchild/anti-hero/smartass who just keeps on surprising you right up to the very end of the novel. I love the dynamic between him and the other Gentlemen Bastards: Jean, Galdo, Calo and Bug—their interactions are hilarious but you see the team dynamic when they’re at work. There’s never a boring moment when they’re together. And despite the non-presence of the character Sabetha, you can see something of what was Locke’s relationship dynamic with her; while it’s a pity we don’t see her (as there are not too many women who play a major role in this novel), the fact that she’s hovering just over the horizon does add something to Locke’s character. The other characters from the Capa Barsavi and his family to Don Lorenzo Salvara to “The Spider” are also great in their supporting roles and add colour and dynamic to the city environment.
The plot itself was pretty entertaining to go through, especially with they’re out working their con because some of the things they did caught me off guard. The storyline involving the Grey King wrecking havoc in in the underground was also interesting and you’re left wondering how the Gentlemen Bastards are going to get out of this mess. I also like Lynch’s use of going back and forth between the present day storylines and the flashback chapters on Locke’s childhood and his education in becoming a Gentleman Bastard. I think it informs a lot about the underground system, the type of skills that they learned, the way that the group came together and the hard lessons that Locke learned along the way. It keeps the story interesting and I personally didn’t think it took out something from the story.
As a complete aside, I’ve read some reviews which noted that the amount of swearing was an issue for them. I personally thought the swearing was in keeping with the rest of the story and reinforces the fact that the world that Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards live in is a very hard and harsh life; they’re not members of the nobility, they’re just regular folk who happen to have a very colourful vocabulary. Sometimes it was amusing enough to alleviate the tension of a scene.
As I’ve mentioned before, the book is the first in a series but works quite well as a standalone. I was quite surprised that the main stories were tied up quite neatly at the end and in a satisfying way. If there’s any storyline that’s going to cross over to future novels (aside from the characters) is the Bondsmagi. If you’re looking for a good story with plenty of action, fantastic world-building and interesting characters, definitely check out this novel.