More summer reads! I had the pleasure of picking up Scott Lynch’s debut novel and find myself eager to pick up the novels that follow it. The Lies of Locke Lamora was suggested to me by a member of my writing group after I expressed interest in writing cons within a fantasy setting. I’m not sure Lynch’s novel really helped solve my problems, but it did give me 600 something pages of entertainment.
The story centers around the intrepid Locke Lamora, an orphan child that finds himself in the care of a gifted thief in the city of Camorr. Through his tutelage, Locke becomes one of the most notorious thieves in the city, but something dark and ominous is lurking behind his most recent tricks and consequences begin to emerge as he attempts to pick the pockets of the wealthy Don Salvara.
Here’s what I loved about the story:
1. A part of the gang… – I love a story that makes you feel “in”. Harry Potter’s inner circle has a way of making you feel like you’re hanging out with them in the common room. Game of Thrones has us feeling like a cousin along for the Starks journey south… In this story? We’re a part of the Gentlemen Bastards. Not only does Lynch provide us with some wonderful characters, but we can slip into the narrative and feel like we’re scheming with the group. When an author can slip us into the setting and the conflict, we feel the success (and failures) of our main character more intensely.
2. The Game – This book may earn Lynch a few looks from the government. The “game” is on in this book and I found the cons to be believable, clever, and oftentimes hilarious. I was looking for a way to incorporate characters of this nature in my own story, and I think I glimpsed a perfect incorporation.
3. Position and Personality – This summer, I taught a little course on Humor Writing. One of the discussions we had centered on understanding our character’s position (in society, in their family, with people they know) and their personality (how they operate and react and live). The humorous dialogue in this story really works well from an understanding of each character’s position and personality.
4. The Magic – I’m getting used to stories that don’t feature magic, but use it instead to accent and complicate and impress. Locke? He doesn’t have any magic, except for his charm and brain. Some of his enemies do have magic, though. As a result, complications arise and Locke is forced to understand his enemy and work within the contexts and limitations that they offer. I also just thought the idea of the Bondsmage is really cool. In the story, they are a group of vindictive magic users that act as a guild. If any of their members is ever killed, they all drop what they’re doing and find the person who did it. No matter what. This fact, along with their truly powerful magic, made for an incredible addition to the plot.
5. The Finer Touches of Setting – How important is the world we set our feet down in? Hogwarts is so central to Harry Potter. In Michael Martinez’s The Daedalus Incident, our alternative universe is the bread and butter that pulls our interest into the story. Camorr really captivated me. Lynch sets the entire plot within the city and, unlike a handful of first time authors, understood his setting with complete authenticity. I think it was especially important considering how well his characters needed to know their environment to be authentic thieves. My favorite touch was the Elderglass. A handful of the buildings had their architecture left behind by an ancient race (possibly gods?) that abandoned what they built. As a result, some of the wealthiest figures in society lived in beautiful, indestructible structures and were effectively taking advantage of a technology they didn’t fully understand. I just love the idea of previous societies and peoples leaving behind something that can be used by those that follow. It rings like authentic archaeology.
What Didn’t I Like…
A. Not necessarily a bad thing, but Lynch definitely employs the winding descriptions you’ll often find in fantasy stories. He has a new world to show off to you, and he certainly does it. I admit that, as I did with George Martin and Robert Jordan at times, I skipped through a few paragraphs that were getting long and distracting me from the plot. In some ways, Camorr is a character though. So I understand why Lynch focused so much on giving us an image of the place that all this was happening in.
B. I praised Low Town for the flashbacks that didn’t ever distract from plot progression and reader interest. I admit that a few of the flashbacks in this story just weren’t as catchy for me. I think, again, this isn’t necessarily a bad sign. In Lynch’s case, I simply think the present day plot was far, far, far more fascinating than the memories and back story. I enjoyed seeing where Jean learned to bury his axes in an enemy. I enjoyed seeing Lamora’s entrance into the Gentlemen Bastards. But there were occasions where I felt that urge to skip forward and back to the present day plot that had so enthralled me. Again, it’s a poor man’s criticism to complain that one part of the story had you in its claws to such a degree that you were distracted from other parts.
All in all, I would highly, highly suggest this book. If you haven’t already dipped your toes into a genre-bender like this one, I highly suggest it. I love seeing fantasy world’s realized and I especially loved the con-man element that is brought to the table. Happy reading!