The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first installment in Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard Sequence. Set in the city-state of Camorr, this novel follows the actions of the criminal underground, specifically the secretive Gentlemen Bastards gang and their charismatic leader, Locke Lamora.
The Gentlemen Bastards defy Camorr’s longstanding truce between thieves and nobles, stealing anything and everything from the richest of the rich in long, elaborate cons. The gang usually avoids other members of the underground, but when fellow thieves start being murdered by the mysterious Grey King, Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards are dragged into a battle over control of Camorr’s underground that threatens to tear them apart.
A Refreshing Protagonist
Without a doubt, Locke is an intriguing, endearing, complex, and, most of all, refreshing protagonist. With a mixture of swashbuckling charm, vulgarity, and unwavering loyalty, Scott Lynch delivers to us a new kind of leading man for fantasy in the character of Locke Lamora. There are no stubborn farm boys-turned-sorcerers or dark, brooding noblemen here. Locke’s only claim to fame seems to be—as the title of the book would suggest—lying. Locke is simultaneously good and bad, devoted until the very end to his friends, but conducting nefarious business all the while.
While Locke is certainly a refreshing character to get to know, there are few other characters who truly share the stage. Locke receives ample development over the course of this first installment, though it is to the detriment of the other characters. We are given some history of the other Gentlemen Bastards, but with nearly all of the viewpoints centered on Locke’s character, there is little time to get to know the supporting cast.
Beautiful Writing and Literary Devices
The Lies of Locke Lamora is a very well-written debut novel. At first I was surprised by the amount of exposition included in the novel, feeling almost as if I was back in English Lit class, but Lynch’s effortless writing style and engaging language made a convert of me about a third of the way in. I am especially a fan of the disjointed timeline, where the main chapters about the current events would be followed by interludes detailing Locke’s childhood and education at the hands of his mentor and the other young Gentlemen Bastards. This provides the reader with more insight into Locke’s character, as well as smaller details of the world itself. While there are what could be considered ‘info dumps’ throughout the book, I didn’t mind because they are written so well.
An Intriguing Setting
Part of what makes the writing in this novel so enjoyable is the care given to describing the setting. Like many talented authors, Lynch brings Camorr to life as its own character in the novel. Camorr bears striking resemblance to a late-medieval era Venice, except with its own magical twist—the remnants of the Eldren race, long disappeared from the world, form the bridges which connect the islands of Camorr and, incidentally, the threads of Locke’s story. Each section of the city is described eloquently as it comes to feature in the story, giving the reader the impression of a very real and varied city-scape.
Almost as a result of this complexity, however, I found myself craving a map in order to situate in my mind where the islands are in relation to one another. Since my book was lacking one, I searched the author’s website and found exactly what I was looking for: a detailed depiction of Camorr.
Where is the fantasy?
While the inclusion of the long-gone race of the Eldren could have potentially elevated this story, there is precious little mention of it. Compounded with the relative lack of information about the magic system used by the Bondsmagi, there were times when this felt like a fantasy novel without the fantasy. While Locke and his gang are interesting characters, they are ultimately a band of thieves that could be present in any world, not just that of Camorr.
Why you should read this book
The Lies of Locke Lamora is an engrossing story that will please most casual readers of the fantasy genre. Those who absolutely love multiple viewpoints or an in-depth magic system may be disappointed. Otherwise, the endearing nature of Locke’s character, the exceptional writing and the promise of what is to come in the future installments are reason enough to pick up this book.