“I don’t need to be reminded that we’re up to our heads in dark water. I just want you boys to remember that we’re the gods-damned sharks.”
I can’t he “I don’t need to be reminded that we’re up to our heads in dark water. I just want you boys to remember that we’re the gods-damned sharks.”
I can’t help but link to the lovely Mia’s review of The Lies of Locke Lamora, because it is perfect and so nicely captures the spirit of my reading experience. Please, go and read that now. And then go buy the book.
Synopsis: Locke and company [the Gentleman Bastards] are con artists in an age where con artistry, as we understand it, is a new and unknown style of crime. The less attention anyone pays to them, the better! But a deadly mystery has begun to haunt the ancient city of Camorr, and a clandestine war is threatening to tear the city's underworld, the only home the Gentlemen Bastards have ever known, to bloody shreds. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends will find both their loyalty and their ingenuity tested to the breaking point as they struggle to stay alive...
Still coming off my high from Six of Crows, I was anxious to read another heist novel. An adventure full of disguises and theft and criminals with hearts of gold. I started reading Locke Lamora without any real hope of it truly capturing me (it’s a REALLY fat book). But like a truly easy mark, I was lured in fast, and I bought in to every line it spun me. I was a goner within a few chapters, gleefully throwing myself into its dense world and relishing in the grime of it.
I thought the constant swearing would begin to wear on me. It didn’t. In fact, it added an effortless, wonderful charm to it that made you feel even closer to the main characters. It also helped ground the world. I honestly don’t know how anyone could hate this novel, but even if you did, you would have to admit that the world-building is some of the finest out there: epic, sprawling, detailed, interesting, essential. It’s always a risk in fantasy to have world-building that’s too overwhelming and ends up distancing the reader, but aspects like the colorful jargon in Locke Lamora make you feel closer to these characters who really are just a bunch of brilliant idiots who could possibly be your brothers. Did I love them? Did I even shed a tear? Of course I did. (And can I say it is far too rare in literature to see such a sweet, deeply-felt friendship between two men such as Locke & Jean. Making me feel all the Frodo & Sam feels.)
I honestly can’t say anything more about the book that hasn’t already been said. Instant classic, constant fun and danger and intrigue, fantastic cast of characters, flat-out great writing. This will be the new book I’ll be pushing into my friends’ hands every birthday and Christmas for awhile. The kind of book you feel sad knowing others don’t have in their lives and on their bookshelves.
Can’t wait to read the sequels!!!
“We’re a different sort of thief here, Lamora. Deception and misdirection are our tools. We don’t believe in hard work when a false face and a good line of bullshit can do so much more.”
“It was strange, how readily authority could be conjured with nothing but a bit of strutting jackassery.”
“You're one third bad intentions, one third pure avarice, and one eighth sawdust. What's left, I'll credit, must be brains.”
“When you don't know everything that you could know, it's a fine time to shut your fucking noisemaker and be polite.”
“You’ll pardon me,” he finally said, “if the suggestion that the minuscule black turnip you call a heart is suddenly overflowing with generosity toward me leaves me wanting to arm myself and put my back against a wall.” ...more
I swear that people simply must not get this series (I say “series” hopefully, because for right now it looks like there will only be the two books). I swear that people simply must not get this series (I say “series” hopefully, because for right now it looks like there will only be the two books). I don’t mean that in some kind of pretentious, exclusive way, it’s just my only rationalization for why both books are only thisclose to being 4 stars. Are the wrong people reading them? Are people going in with certain, um, expectations and not feeling that they’re met? Do people just not want to do any real thinking?
I really need to stop sounding like a douche.
“It’s YA, Jessica, get off your high horse!” you might say. “But a good story is a good story! Beautiful, creative prose is beautiful, creative prose!” I’d shout back from said horse (a blood bay, if you were wondering).
Let me try and put in a few words what I love about these books.
1)They’re poetry. There are about 10 outrageous metaphors on each page, and I literally have to stop and give a sage nod to individual sentences. I mean, isn’t that what you do with great poetry? Her word choices and turns of phrase are so on point, man. Catherine Fisher had a hand in inventing the English language, methinks. random example from random page: “The world is a chessboard, madam, on which we play out our ploys and follies. You are the Queen, of course. Your moves are the strongest. For myself, I claim only to be a knight, advancing in a crooked progress. Do we move ourselves, do you think, or does a great gloved hand place us on our squares?” Oh, another: “This was death. It was warm and sticky and there were waves of it, washing over her like pain. It had no air to breathe, no words to speak. It was a choking in her throat.”
2)I’ve never seen modern lore done so well. Chapters open with historical anecdotes of the prison universe (a poem, fable, etc.). It’s masterful to see it all play out and everything work and come together in the end (ok, not everything—dang loose ends—but enough). I’ve studied folklore and fairytales, and to see how the truth can change in the mouths of storytellers throughout time and become its own entity entirely is so fascinating to me. The actuality of what happens becomes so warped, but the seed of truth remains and from it still comes wisdom and power.
3)Honestly, I think the third best part is everything I can’t explain. I love it, I just do.
ALSO, I was inconsolable after learning that Taylor Lautner would be playing Finn in the movie adaptation. Cruel, cruel world. Must you fight good literature with such fervor? A) They’re supposed to be British. B) Just, no. C) You know they’re going to try and add in some BS romance.
Random: When I was reading this book last year, I’d have to check in with it whenever I came in to work (at a bookstore) and my managers would read the title and give me weird looks. Then my own mind would go wonky and I’d think of Sappho, the ancient Greek lesbian poet. Did they think I was reading some kind of trashy erotica or something? Hey! Is that where Fisher got the name Sapphique any way? He is a poet of sorts… ...more
He would talk to them of stories and books, and explain to them how stories wanted to be told and books wanted to be read, and how everything that theHe would talk to them of stories and books, and explain to them how stories wanted to be told and books wanted to be read, and how everything that they ever needed to know about life and the land of which he wrote, or about any land or realm that they could imagine, was contained in books. And some of the children understood, and some did not.
Most of the time when someone disturbs my introvert time to ask me what I’m reading, I give a few hurried words like, "oh it’s just a scifi novel", or I end up word vomiting a really random off-putting summary like, "it’s this epic novel about these talking rabbits who have to abandon their warren because of industrialization and there’s this rabbit who can see visions, and you know what, I’m going to stop talking." And then sometimes I read a novel like this one and when a fellow reader asks what I’m reading, I can’t help but smile and put my book down and say:
"It’s a book about stories and reading and the power of the imagination. And it’s also about loss and grief and that transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s about pain and love and fear and self-sacrifice, and this little slip of a book will make you cry."
Once upon a time – for that is how all stories should begin – there was a boy who lost his mother.
David loses his mother and is lost in grief. In a mental prison of his own making. A prison of routines and obsessive compulsions. He's a child and he feels alone. Then his father meets someone else, and they have a baby together. David’s grief grows and with it other emotions take root in his heart: anger and fear and jealousy. And then in what might be a dream, what might be fantasy, or what might be very, very real, David finds himself in another world. What follows is David’s quest to find a way back home. To find his mother and return to the life he once had. It’s a simple story.
As an adult we know his goal is impossible from the start. When someone dies they're gone. There's no going back. Do we not all remember the heartbreak of learning this devastating truth? Not just learned, but felt the weight of it? David’s journey is one we all must make. To accept the burden of grief in our lives. And to then choose joy.
This is not academic literature. It’s not highbrow philosophical fiction with big ideas and controversial themes. It has dwarves and monsters and trolls and fairy tales and floating castles and dying kings. But it’s also not a children’s book. It is a book about childhood, however.
I know many people who hated the movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are because it was "weird". But that wasn’t supposed to be a movie for kids, it was a movie about kids. About childhood. It’s a pretty significant difference. This book is the same. I also see people faulting it for being too simplistic and not adult enough (However, let this be my warning that there is dark and graphic content in this book. Glimpses of the truly horrific side of human nature.). On that point, I must disagree. As C.S. Lewis said, "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
Quotes (hidden for minor spoilers)
(view spoiler)[You had evil inside you, and you indulged it. Men will always indulge it. * "This life is filled with threats and danger, David. We face those that we have to face, and there will be times when we must make the choice to act for the greater good, even at risk to ourselves, but we do not lay down our lives needlessly. Each of us has only one life to live, and one life to give. There is no glory in throwing it away where there is no hope." * And David saw himself reflected in the Woodsman's eyes, and there he was no longer old but a young man, for a man is always his father's child no matter how old he is or how long they have been apart. * "You must learn to control your impulses," he said. "A sword wants to be used. It wants to draw blood. That is why it was forged, and it has no other purpose in the world. If you do not control it, then it will control you." * And, in the darkness, David closed his eyes as all that was lost was found again.(hide spoiler)]