Monday, December 1, 2014

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch #review

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
Publisher: Gollancz, 2007

This is one of those books that has created quite a bit of buzz online, some praising it and one or two absolutely slamming it, so I felt compelled to add it to my reading list. Not only that, but it was recommended to me by an author friend who said it was a good example of fantasy literature where the protagonist is more of an anti-hero.

Locke Lamora is a thief and a liar, and as Scott Lynch paints him out, Locke is the best thief and liar in the city of Camorr. He doesn’t operate on his own, however: Locke has his coterie of “brothers” (and one, absent “sister”) and they style themselves as the Gentleman Bastards. They consider themselves to be consummate con artists rather than ordinary thieves. Their depredations on the wealthy of the city have led to the rise of the legend of the Thorn of Camorr.

Even Barsavi, the de facto leader of Camorr’s underground, is unaware of how fabulously wealthy the Gentleman Bastards are: For all their diversity, Locke, Jean Tannen, the twins Calo and Galdo Sanza, and the young Bug, as well as Sabetha (whom I hope to meet soon) are a devastating team and their exploits are both audacious and hair raising.

And should the Gentleman Bastards be unmasked as preying on the wealthy of Camorr – and that they are contravention of the Secret Peace that protects the upper crust of society – they would be in a world of trouble.

Of course Lynch is a masterful spinner of webs that, as the story progresses, grow gradually more tangled and complicated. I often paused and tried to imagine how the hell Locke and his companions were going to extricate themselves from their muddles.

The book does get off to a bit of a slow start, and I will admit that the writing style nearly put me off completely. But I’m glad I pushed on through, because I can state with all confidence that Lynch is one of the very few authors out there who can successfully write a stunning, slightly omniscient third-person point of view.

You get the idea that it’s Lynch telling the story while it unfolds, often digressing to fill in with a bit of back story to give context, before going on with the epic. This hopping between past and present may annoy some, but I loved the bigger picture it offered. Lynch feeds his readers just enough hints and tidbits to give sufficient depth to the characterisation and narrative.

The world building is breathtaking, tactile and vast in scope. The city of Camorr reminded me of Venice, and such magical elements as there were, didn’t overshadow the storytelling. But, be warned, Lynch pulls no punches, and if you take a leaf out of the Great GRRM’s books (A Song of Ice and Fire style), don’t get too attached to characters.

The moment I finished, I thought, wow, this would work as a film, and though I see it’s been optioned, nothing much has happened. The Lies of Locke Lamora may take time to get up to speed but it’s nail biting at the end. This is fantasy at its best, and it’s the kind of book that I’ll reread at some point.

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