Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Book cover of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This is going to be a very, very difficult book to review. The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of those books that is possible to enjoy almost in hindsight - I found it quite heavy and almost inaccessible at points, but then the ending was so damn perfect that I'm dying to read the sequel. Looking back, it's possible that I'd enjoy it more now that I know where it's headed and how well it develops.

Plot summary: They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich - they're the only ones worth stealing from - but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

Together their domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it's a city of shifting revels, filthy canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemeteries. Home to Dons, merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples, and feral children. And to Capa Barsavi, the criminal mastermind who runs the city.

But there are whispers of a challenge to the Capa's power. A challenge from a man no one has ever seen, a man no blade can touch. The Grey King is coming.

The story actually reminded me of The Way of Shadows series by Brent Weeks, only with a more formal tone. Locke and his friends together form The Gentleman Bastards, a small gang dedicated to pulling elaborate stunts and ruses to do what no other criminal will - steal from the nobility. They make an interesting, perfectly balanced group: Locke is the mastermind behind every one of their escapades, Jean cannot be bested in a fight, Calo and Galo are a set of super sneaky twins and Bug is their errand boy, slowly being initiated into the trade.

I genuinely believe that a strong set of friendships can make any book. Royce and Hadrian in Theft of Swords, or Sparkhawk and Kalten in The Elenium series by David Eddings. Even Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in the Lord of the Rings films. When a bond between certain characters is so strong that it's almost tangible, it makes the reader so much more invested in everything they do. 

The Lies of Locke Lamora is perfect, in that respect. I found the characters flat and lifeless for the first two thirds of the book but when the narrative began to reveal how they all interlinked, my opinion of the book as a whole went way up. They don't really start to take shape until this point, but afterwards they're some of the best characters I've ever seen. They work together so well and I can't wait to rejoin them in the next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies.

The world-building is unbelievably well thought-out, but it almost goes too far in the opposite direction. The plot is broken up by interludes, which are basically just lengthy, long-winded essays on the city's history shoved in for background information. That's fine in theory, but they're really frequent and usually not necessary or relevant at all. By two thirds of the way through, I'd stopped giving them my full attention and just skim-red.

It's also very jumpy time-wise. For example, we might jump in to the middle of a stunt, then go back to the preparation of the stunt, then back to the middle and then way back to travelling to the stunt. I understand that it's necessary sometimes, in an Ocean's Eleven-style, 'this is how we did it' kind of way. It's just too convoluted and sometimes it's difficult working out when/where you are as the time shifts aren't always clearly noted.

I keep referencing the two thirds point of The Lies of Locke Lamora, I know, but it really does feel like everything changes at that point. I'd struggled to get in to the story, the plot was bogged down by description, the characters were flat... it wasn't great, to be honest. But after that point... wow. It becomes a truly amazing novel. All the problems with it were magically fixed and I didn't want to do anything but sit there and read it.

I bumped up my rating from three stars to four, just on the strength of the ending. It's perfect. Clever and perfect. It's one of the best-written (and perfect!) endings I have ever read. I finished it at 2am and just had to sit there and process everything that had happened. I obviously can't discuss it too much, but it hit me hard in several different ways.

To conclude, read The Lies of Locke Lamora but STICK WITH IT. It is hard going for a while but I promise that it does pay off. It could do with being 100 pages or so shorter (by condensing the interludes, perhaps) but the wonderful characters, enthralling plot and perfect ending easily made it one of my favourite books of 2013.

Visit Scott Lynch here, or find him on Twitter.


  1. I love this book so hard. It didn't take me as long to get into - but then again, Locke and the idea of these con artists basically bluffing their way into riches is totally my kind of fun storyline. And I actually grew to really appreciate the interludes - in the third book, The Republic of Thieves, they grow a bit tedious but only because they take up SO much of the book and because I didn't really like one of the characters.

    Red Seas Under Red Skies was AWESOME, btw. Possibly even better than this one, and I liked this one enough to give it 5 stars.

  2. I'm thinking maybe I'll get round to reading this one in 2014. Thanks for the review, and I'll make sure I stick with it even if I find it heavy-going. Merry Christmas Hanna! x

  3. *late comment is late*
    I still haven't read this one. I read the prologue (hate prologues so much) and the first couple of pages of chapter one which seem okay so far but I tried reading it when I couldn't be arsed to read as I was told by pretty much everybody that it's wtfbbqawesomesauce amazing and will definitely break the slump. Well so much for that, but I have got my hands on all 3 currently released books in this series based on the sheer strength of these recommendations. The third one has a particularly gorgeous cover. *pets it*

  4. It is a shame that you didn't get into the story until halfway through but I am glad you liked it after that. I loved this book. It was full of suspense, intrigue and brilliant story telling. Although violent in parts I still thought it was a worthwhile great read. I also thought the flashbacks to how the Locke and his friends got to where they were and developed under Chains was a different aspect to the book and broke up the action. It all linked in perfectly. I am looking forward to reading the next book.
    I recently reviewed this book also and if you would like to read my review and have a chat further about this book you can find it on anitasbookbag.co.uk


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