Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
I have been reluctant in reading The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence. Lynch’s recent personal struggles have made it difficult for him to meet deadlines and the third book in the series has now been postponed until Autumn of this year. Furthermore, there is no indication that the predicted release date has more integrity than the words of Locke Lamora. Scott Lynch reiterated this point in his new blog, saying “not to take any date as valid until you see [him] posting it online [him]self.”
Despite the uncertainty in future releases, I couldn’t help myself. I heard Scott Lynch on the Sword and Laser podcast and he seemed to have a knowledge of the genre and craft that surpassed many of his peers. He is smart and thoughtful and in the end of the interview, he recommended Dan Simmon’s Hyperion for the S&L book club pick. Given the high esteem I hold for that novel (what can I say — Lynch has good taste), I figured it was about time I acquiesce and begin Scott Lynch’s first novel.
So here I am, reviewing The Lies of Locke Lamora.
In the city of Camorr, there are two classes of people: nobles and gangs of thieves (hundreds of them). There is a secret peace between the two classes — a general understanding, if you will — that the thieves do not steal from nobility and in return, Camorr’s law enforcement turns a blind eye to the unlawful gangs’ profession.
So here comes a six or seven-year-old boy by the name of Locke Lamora, a meager-sized orphan whose ambition and cunning far outweigh his fellow thieves. After breaking the Secret Peace and nearly giving himself a death sentence, Locke is sold to a so-believed priest named Father Chains who embraces the youth’s lofty aspirations and teaches him how to be a gentleman thief.
After several years of training, Locke conspires a grand scheme to steal half of the fortune from a notable duke. To assist him in this fraud are Jean Tannen, a broad-shouldered tough man with a violent temper and a master of hatchets (particularly, his “wicked sisters”); Calo and Galdo Sansa, jack-of-all-trades twins with a love for gambling; and Bug, the cadre’s youngest member.
The Lies of Locke Lamora reads like a caper, but I will not be one of the many reviewers who likens the novel to Oceans Eleven. In fact, if you want to compare it to a movie, I think Catch Me If You Can is a much better comparison. This is not a story of one great heist against a wealthy enterprise, but rather a story of Locke and a collection of lives he invents in order to gather a vault full of money. He is a complete commoner who passes himself of as one of society’s elite in several different circumstances.
Locke’s biggest obstacle is not the nobility, the law, or Capa Barsavi (ruler of the gangs of thieves). There is a much bigger threat — a man who calls himself the Gray King. With the help of a bondsmage (a for-hire sorcerer), the Gray King systematically assassinates the garristas (gang leaders) in an effort to replace Capa Barsavi as the thieving-class leader of Camorr. Locke is thrust into the center of the Gray King’s plans and soon the Gentlemen Bastards find themselves in the direst of circumstances.
The nature of Locke Lamora’s profession leads him to always be on his toes. He is perpetually in disguise and forced to react quickly. With a protagonist/anti-hero such as Locke, I found myself hanging on every page and every word wondering what would happen next. The book does not unfold like a grand mystery and at times wanders with multiple timelines. But the overall impact was truly satisfying. It was a pleasure to experience Locke battle wits with the nobles and to cringe when Jean pummeled the faces of rival gang members. Jean and Locke share a brotherly bond that most men can relate to, united not through their common interests, but through their dependence on one another as if they were born of the same blood.
The Lies of Locke Lamora was a truly enjoyable read. It has elements of mystery, magic, and swashbuckling adventure that appeal to diverse interests. I look with eager anticipation to read the next novel and hopefully the rest of the series in the near future.