An orphan's life is harsh--and often short--in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld's most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly.
Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game--or die trying....
Released: June 26th 2007 Pages: 722
Publisher: Bantam Spectra Source: Library
First Look: ***** This looked fun. I love fantasy books about thieves (or similar characters)--they just have so much more personality than many other characters, for some reason. Also, I'm slowly nudging my way into non-YA fantasy, and this seemed like another good one to try.
Setting: ***** Locke's city, Camorr, is a well-developed and interesting place. At first glance, it seems like your standard high fantasy city, but the more I read, the more I realized that I was wrong. It's Venice meets King's Landing, with the glass ruins of a previous civilization, an extensive secret network of thieves and gangs, priests who aren't quite what they seem, and a little bit of magic. Also, man-eating sharks. Scott Lynch excellently portrayed the crowded, dirty, and chaotic feelings of the city. I wouldn't want to live there, but I can imagine it clearly.
Characters: ***** Locke Lamora is an idiot. He's arrogant, makes rash decisions, and has a disturbing lack of concern for his own safety. And yet, I love him. He's also funny, resourceful, and a genius. Somehow, he gets out of every mess he gets into, even if it seems he's outsmarted even himself. And he does get himself into a ton of trouble on a regular basis, to the point where I was rolling my eyes, thinking, "Really? Okay, now you've done it." Despite that, though, I wanted him to prevail, and trusted that he would, because that's just Locke Lamora for you. He's this genre's MacGyver.
The team isn't just him, though. It's also Jean, Bug, and the twins. Even teams of thieves and troublemakers need a voice of reason (see also: Zoe Washburne, Hermione Granger) which is Jean, in this case. He's not quite as three-dimensional as Locke, but he's still a likable, realistic character. There's also Bug, who is adorable, and the twins, who are full of personality.
Plot: ***** The plot got slow, for me. To be fair, I read a large portion of this book while I was on strong pain medication after I had my wisdom teeth removed, so it's hardly this book's fault that I could barely keep my eyes open, at times. Still, though, the focus seems to switch throughout the book. First, the goal is an elaborate con; then, it's a revenge plot; then, it's a plot to overthrow a gang ruler. These things are interesting enough in themselves, but the switching made it easier to lose my attention. That being said, much of the plot is just plain fun. Locke has a knack for getting himself into increasingly insane and impossible situations, and it's a wild ride watching him work his way out, whether it's a political or physical situation. It's equal parts adventure and intrigue.
Uniqueness: ***** It has its fair share of fantasy tropes, but it's innovative enough to stand out. Its structure--which I'll discuss in the next section--is unique, which also lends it originality.
Writing: ***** This book has a unique structure. The chapters alternate between the present story and the story of how Locke came to be...well, himself. Both grabbed my interest equally, so neither felt unnecessary. I enjoyed the look into Locke's unconventional childhood, and it lent complexity to the present Locke. It would've been easy for these chapters to become disorienting, but I never had that problem. Apart from that, I have no comments about the writing--the narration did its job while being unobtrusive, and at times, that's exactly what the book requires.
Likes: I knew I was in for something fun when I read this:
"So that makes us robbers of robbers," said Bug, "who pretend to be robbers working for a robber of other robbers."
Also, it has some interesting tidbits of wisdom:
"...there's no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated..."
"I have always found the presumptions of others to be the best possible disguise..."
Overall: The Lies of Locke Lamora is a fun, twisty, and insane roller coaster of a book. I found myself shaking my head over and over at the impossible situations Locke gets himself into, but he always prevails, which makes me love him even more. The plot is a bit slow in the middle (take that with a grain of salt, since I was on pain medication at the time and could hardly stay awake), but it still kept my interest, for the most part. It's told in a unique style that switches between Locke's present and Locke's boyhood, both of which compliment one another. It has a healthy share of both adventure and intrigue. Recommended.