Christopher's Reviews > The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
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May 06, 08

bookshelves: fantasy
Read in May, 2008

This was a beautiful book with a fuckin' ugly ass cover (which I should sy right away is NOT the cover that they show here). I'm in a few online groups for people who like the sort of things that Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, George R.R. Martin, Peter Straub, Elizabeth Hand and their ilk are writing. I still haven't see a good label for that group.

The New Wave Fabulists. I hate that one. But they brought it on themselves.

The New Weirdist. I might hate that on even more.

Somewhere along the line, in reference to Meiville I think, I heard someone use the term "elf-less" fantasy.

I like that. Elf-less fantasy, and Alien-less sci-fi.

Anyway, in one of these Elf-less fantasy groups I started seeing the title "The Lies of Lock Lamora" occurring. People loved the book. Compared the author, Scott Lynch, to Mieville, and highly recommended it.

So I went out to find it. New even. I didn't even mess around with the used book stores.
I found it.
I looked at the cover.
And I put it's ugly ass right back on the shelf.
Seriously.
I Imagined myself sitting in the corner at a coffee shop with that shiny pastel mess of a foil frakkin' trading card held in my hands, and I just couldn't do it.

Some time passed. I was in a book slump. I caved in and bought it, but only to read at home before bed.... with the lights out, and a very small reading light. Partly so that not even I would have to look at that cover, and partly because with even a very small light hitting that book, it reflected like an over-amped disco ball.

You know what? It was a damn good book. The more distance I have from it, the more I'm finding faults, but over all, it was a very good book.

It's the story of Locke Lamora. Orphaned, taken in by thieves (the Oliver Twist references can't be accidental) and eventually becoming the leader of a small group calls the Gentlemen Bastards.

The book keeps an edge to it. It's brutality lends a feel of realism. In the tradition of low-fantasy there are no fairies or dragons. There is magic, but it is rare, subtle, and nearly insurmountable. Locke

Lamora is always the underdog. Always just getting by on his wits, and always on the verge of ruin.

The story clips along very nicely, and despite my initial promise to only read it in the dark under a blanket, i found myself taking it out in public and sneaking in a chapter of two whenever I could.

I think I may have blinded a nun and a group of children on a field trip when the sun glinted off the cover, once a large plane mistook me for a runway, and occasionally ships at see will use a signal lantern

to try to communicate with me. But it might just have been worth it.

Here are my complaints.
1) This is a male-centric book to the extreme. It wasn't until after I read it and started thinking about it a bit that I realized there are no strong female characters in this book. There's a pair of sisters who wear S&M gladiator gear and fight sharks..... but they don't count. This is a book about a group of guys that do guy things and get in fights with other guys.

2) The ending was weak. Everything flowed and progressed nicely in what was a surprisingly believable fashion up until the ending. Which felt hobbled together, rushed, and random. There is a sequal, Red Seas Under Red Skies, which I probably won't read primarily because I found the ending of this book to be so weak. On the plus side, the ending was short. I'd say lest than 10% of the entire book is spent on the final scenes.

3) The world building was uneven. In about the first third of the book you are leaked little bits about the world that Locke inhabits. Mostly through dialogue or little bits of narrative. That worked well, and I found myself fascinated with this world. In about the second third, the author introduces brief little passages that tell you about the history or geography of the world, and then tie it in with the following scene. That worked too, but it felt a little choppy.

In the final third of the book the author says fuck it, and interjects excursuses that feel like textbook lessons and weren't related to the story in any way i could discern. These I resented. Luckily there weren't many.

In the end, anyone who is interested in this new movement (you know, the elfless fantasy and alienless sci-fi referenced above) should pick up this book and a nice little book cover (kittens and flowers if need be, or i've heard you can make your own with paper grocery bags and markers).

If that sort of things doesn't appeal to you, you should pick this up anyway. Not to read, you won't like it. But just in case you're stranded on a tropical island and you need to signal an airplane before the smoke monster eats you.


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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Joanna Thanks for this. Excellent review, and matches my sentiments nearly exactly!


Katharine In Red Seas Under Red Skies, there are strong female characters throughout. I feel it's even better than LoLL so you should give it a try anyhow ^^ Maybe find a copy where the cover isn't so ugly. I quite like the one I have - it's a ship, on the seas. Greens and yellows and black - very manly.

Fantastic review though :)


jillz Are there groups somewhere that read/recommend Elf-less Fantasies?


Ceitean Even though LoLL had a lack of main female characters, I did find that Lynch's worldbuilding was remarkably gender-equal. I'd say the 'verse as a whole passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, but not this specific storyline, if that makes sense.


Richard Casey I thought women In this world were pretty prominent figures I.e chosen as body guards, chosen to fight sharks, and donia Sofia definitely wears the trousers as does the spider


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