In light of my most recent literary crush (or re-crush, I’m reading book 2 right now), I thought I should finally post a review of one of my all-time favorite fantasy books. If you haven’t read Scott Lynch and you enjoy fantasy (or anything fun for that matter), you are really missing out.
Published: Gollancz, 2006
Series: Gentleman Bastard #1
My rating: 9,5/10
First sentence: At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.
An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. Born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora dodges both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains, neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected family of orphans “Gentlemen Bastards”. Locke grows to lead, delightedly pulling off one outrageous trick after another, infamous as the Thorn of Camorr – no wealthy noble is safe from his sting. But the Gray King is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game–or die trying.
So… con men in a magical alternate Venice? That pitch already got my attention and I was ready to fall in love. But Locke Lamora combines a whole lot of things I go for in a fantasy book – in any book, for that matter. It gives you snappy, witty prose, a tightly-knit group of friends who happen to be criminal more-or-less masterminds, swear a lot, and get into so much shit that you think it’s impossible for them to ever get out again. Scott Lynch also surprised me with a fair amount of plot twists that took this story to places I really wouldn’t have expected. And he pulls all of that off in a world that comes to life from the pages and that feels consistant and believable every second of the way. Yep, you could call this book a particular crush of mine (not just because I have a thing for Locke…).
What got to me most was probably the language. Combining classic fantasy with characters who use modern swear words, who are extremely quick-witted and offer hilarious and snarky conversations, is quite a feat. But the author manages to do it while using a voice for the narrator that is both clever and literary. This is not pulpy or cheap – it’s simply engaging and bounces you between being amused, scared for the characters and utterly thrilled. There is so much detail and so many things to discover, and I won’t mention any of them. Slowly unraveling the truth is half the fun of this book.
You know how I am with characters. If I like them, I’m already half-sold on the book. Now Locke Lamora and his fellow Gentlemen Bastards are easy to love. Flawed and idiotic as they sometimes are, I couldn’t pick my least favorite if you held a gun to my head. I loved them all and that made the story all the more interesting. My reviews are all spoiler-free but I will say this: In Scott Lynch’s universe, nobody is safe!
If you like heist-movies, if you like quippy banter and great world building, if you’re tired of the same old fantasy tropes, then pick this up. Hell, even if you like all of these things, pick it up. The Lies of Locke Lamora was one of the highlights of my last decade in reading fantasy novels. And the only reason I waited two years to start the second novel is because it leaves you with a sense of post-book-withdrawal. You want to immediately erase your memory of the book and start reading it again, knowing nothing about it. It’s that good. And – halfway through book 2 – I can say that the follow up is even better.
THE GOOD: Great language, fantastic world-building, and characters you can’t help but love.
THE BAD: Starts off a tiny bit slow (although this wasn’t true for my re-read).
THE VERDICT: A fresh new wind in the fantasy genre, combining modern elements with a fantasy world and – did I mention it’s about con men?
BONUS: Cons and plot twist all the way.
RATING: 9,5/10 Very close to perfection
- The Lies of Locke Lamora
- Red Seas Under Red Skies
- The Republic of Thieves (coming 2013)