Theresa's Reviews > The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
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's review
May 13, 2009

it was amazing

The Lies of Locke Lamorais a book that has been out since 2006 and has received tons of hype since then. So why am I reviewing it now?

I have had a heck of a time with my reviews lately. I must have tried to read 15 books and put each one down by the time I hit 50 pages. It's not that the books are bad-- well, maybe one-- it's just that when I read so many books of the same genre for review, it's hard to find something that distinguishes itself.

What I'll often do, when I hit the wall reviewing-wise, I'll pick up a book that I don't have to review. Sometimes it will be in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, sometimes it won't. "The Lies of Locke Lamora" is a book that I've had sitting on my shelf for over a year and never read. I've picked it up a couple of times but always put it down in favor of books I just had to read.

Not this time.

Let me just say this, Scott Lynch does not need me to gush about his book. The reviews he has received have been nothing less than stellar. He has recommendations on his book by George R.R. Martin, Kate Elliott, Richard Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Hal Duncan as well as many respected publications.

Does he deserve all the hype? In a word, yes.

"The Lies of Locke Lamora" is about a young thief. Locke is such a skilled deceiver that he earns a death mark as a child. Sold to Father Chains, a thief who masquerades as a blind priest, Locke is raised to be a Gentleman Bastard. The Gentleman Bastards are a group of thieves, raised by Chains, who are trained to emulate the noble classes of Camorr and steal huge sums of money from them. The only problem is that by stealing from the nobles, the Gentleman Bastards violate the secret peace of Camorr and risk violent retribution from Capa Barsavi, who rules over the thieves of Camorr.

But Locke, now personally known as the Thorn of Camorr, and his gang continue to steal from the nobles and amass huge sums of money, until The Gray King appears. The Gray King decides to make a play for Capa Barsavi's power and Locke ends up caught in the middle of a big, bloody power struggle.

I have read lots of descriptions that compare "The Lies of Locke Lamora" to "Oceans Eleven" or "Robin Hood." But I tend to think that only works if you put the guys from "Ocean's Eleven" in the middle of a mob war. While this book does have its humorous moments, I wouldn't characterize Locke and his gang as being cute-- which is how I think of the characters in "Ocean's Eleven." In fact, most of the time Locke and his friends are barely keeping their heads above water. The Gray King is a power to be reckoned with and The Gentleman Bastards soon find themselves out of their depth. After being set up by The Gray King, with disastrous consequences, Locke ends up on mission of revenge. The plot twists and turns, with lots of bloody action, until we find out what The Gray King's real motivation is.

For those of you who like to know the magic system in a book, this one mixes magic and alchemy to great effect. Neither Locke nor any of his group practice magic, though they come up against some magic in the war between The Gray King and Capa Barsavi. Mostly Locke and his gang use alchemical devices in their disguises; just as alchemy pops up in virtually every aspect of daily life in Camorr.

This is one of those books that was a lot like watching a suspenseful movie for me. I found that I had to put the book down a lot because the story was so tense. I actually worried about Locke! For me, that's a sign of a great writer. I never felt I could take anything for granted. I really didn't know if things would turn out well for Locke or any of the main characters. The book moves at a fast pace with tons of action. You barely have a chance to catch your breath before Lynch thrusts you into another hectic sequence.

If I could find a complaint, and there isn't much to complain about, it might be that Locke spends more of his time getting his butt kicked by The Gray King than he does pulling off his cons. But that complaint doesn't even work because if there is a theme for the book it would be that no one is above getting hoisted by their own petard, and Locke's struggles fit into that theme nicely. The pacing and the plotting of the book are so deftly done that I still can't believe this is a debut novel. It is one impressive piece of work.

I finished this book almost regretfully because it was such a satisfying read. The world-building in first rate and the complexity of the story is made all the more amazing by Lynch's ability to put it all together. The only caveat I might have for anyone inclined to pick up the book is that it is violent, profane and not your typical everyone lives happily ever after book. But then, why would you want anything different?

I already have a copy of the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skiesand I plan on losing myself in this one very soon.

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