Originally posted on Leah’s Books.
The Lies of Locke Lamora
- Author: Scott Lynch
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: June 27, 2006
- Publisher: Bantam Spectra
- Series: Gentleman Bastard #1
CONTENT WARNING: blood, violence, torture, murder, gore
An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But brown with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains—a man who is neither blind not a priest.
A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans—a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.
Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful—and more ambitious—than Locke has yet imagined.
Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men—and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray king at his own brutal game—or die trying…
This book came up on my radar quite some time ago, and I’ve been meaning to get around to it sooner or later. Recently, I went on an interlibrary loan requesting spree, and finally got my mitts on a copy of this gem. I went in with high hopes, and while it took me a while to get into the story, it definitely didn’t disappoint and now I’m dying to request the second one in the series!
We get thrown into the story right at the beginning, when Locke is a very young orphan who scammed his way into the service of the Thiefmaker—a man who purchases orphans, rescuing them from slavery, but tossing them into a life of petty crime. The story jumps back and forth in time, with chapters occurring in Locke’s adult life, and flashbacks to the formative years of the various Gentlemen Bastards.
The world-building in this story is phenomenal. Camorr is an island-state that offers a bit of everything, but this story mainly focuses on the gritty underworld. And I think one of the most intriguing parts of the story was the way that Camorr was built on the ruins of some unknown alien civilization, and learning about the city itself was fascinating. Like most commerce-driven places, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.
“It is said in Camorr that the difference between honest and dishonest commerce is that when an honest man or woman of business ruins someone, they don’t have the courtesy to cut their throat to finish the affair.”
Locke is one of those morally gray characters that I couldn’t help but love. He has a natural gift for grifting, and has grown up with people nurturing and training him in how to be more effective. There’s the best possible example of found family in this story—Locke develops close bonds with the other orphans under the care of Father Chains, and they are as close as any natural born family, maybe even more since their survival depends on each other. And while each of these guys has their own talents, Locke is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before:
“‘I’ve got kids that enjoy stealing. I’ve got kids that don’t think about stealing one way or another, and I’ve got kids that just tolerate stealing because they know they’ve got nothing else to do. But nobody—and I mean nobody—has ever been hungry for it like this boy. If he had a bloody gash across his throat and a physiker was trying to sew it up, Lamora would steal the needle and thread and die laughing. He…steals too much.’”
The pace was a little slow in the beginning, which I actually appreciated. It gave me some time to get familiar with the world, the story, and the characters, and by the time I understood what was going on, I was hooked. The pace picked up significantly, with Locke and his crew jumping from one fiasco to the next, but always managing to come out on top. They’re true underdogs, and while I logically know that stealing is wrong, I wanted them to succeed and overcome the challenges they faced. The way they did this was brilliant, and it speaks to Lynch’s mastery of storytelling. Each situation was exciting, and it was hard to figure out exactly how they were going to get out of it. Probably because the characters also didn’t have a set plan for everything:
“‘You have a plan?’ ‘No,’ said Locke. ‘Not even a speck of one. Not the damnedest idea.’ He grinned weakly. ‘But don’t all of my better schemes start like this? I’ll find an opening, somehow…and then I suppose I’ll be rash.’”
This was one of the most engrossing and exciting fantasy novels that I’ve read. It’s got witty banter, which is one of my favorite things to read in a book, along with action, plot twists galore, and characters I fell in love with right away. I’m fighting with myself not to immediately request the next book from the library, but I already know it’s a losing fight, and that I’m going to request it today, ignoring the ever-growing pile of books that need to be read.