I first heard about The Lies Of Locke Lamora from TV Tropes (more on that later) under the entry for Magnificent Bastards. From there I read the brief description and I was sold. Due to the mysterious nature of time a year went by before I even remembered to pick it up.
Waiting even a year was a mistake, not to mention that I could have read this book seven years ago when it was first published in 2006. I have to borrow parts of TV Trope’s basic description of the plot since it was what piqued my interest in the first place: The Lies Of Locke Lamora is similar to Ocean’s Eleven/The Italian Job set in a fantasy variation of Venice, with a bit of The Godfather thrown in.
If you’re a fan of the lovable rogues and their capers in those stories, then the gang of thieves and con men in The Lies Of Locke Lamora will appeal to you.
Scott Lynch has created a fantastic variation of Venice called Camorr, a rich cesspool of villainy and despots ruled over (in some cases literally from massive magical crystal towers) by a noble class just as corrupt. The Capa of Camorr, Barsavi, serves as the king of the cut-throats and cut-purses, while Duke Nicovante rules the upper class. Between them is the Secret Peace: the city guards will often turn a blind eye toward organized crime as long the nobility of Camorr are off limits.
The legend of the Thorn of Camorr, a mythical figured rumored to be a champion of the poor by robbing from the rich, flies in the face of this secret peace. Whether or not the Thorn exists, and what he is capable of, is subject to much debate, and as is par for the course, much exaggeration.
Camorr is built on the ruins of ancient city created by a people known only as Eldren, leaving behind magical glass-like structures known as Elderglass. Not much is known about these Eldren other than the structures they left behind. Also, the city is so vast and well established that reading The Lies Of Locke Lamora without checking the map of Camorr can get confusing.
What I love the most about The Lies Of Locke Lamora is that it doesn’t try to hide behind “PG-13” notions of what these men do. The humor can be crude, the characters cruder and their actions sometimes despicable. Lynch recognizes that thieves and con men are not innocent people, nor is the business conduct without significant risks. He recognizes that, addresses it head on, and you still love the Gentlemen Bastards all the same.
Each chapter alternates between present day Locke Lamora and his childhood when he was being raised and trained by his mentor, Chains. This dichotomy often will take aspects of what Locke and his crew are doing in the present day and show how they learned to do it, or show lessons that would perhaps help them later on in the book. As the plot begins to pick up this format is abandoned in favor of moving full steam ahead with the plot line. This is a wise choice on Lynch’s part for there is no need to derail the plot with backstory once it has hit its stride.
Also the final act flies in the face of every expectation I had going in. About a third of the way through the book I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the direction the story would go. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I love that. Between the charming cast of characters, a rich world with a deep backstory filled with unexplained mysteries, and an exciting and humorous plot The Lies Of Locke Lamora is a refreshing take on fantasy and storytelling in general.
I should have read it earlier but I would be worse off if I had not read it at all. Better late than never.