This book was really, really hyped up for me. I heard all about how incredible it was, even before I managed to get my hands on a copy, and that made me nervous. Rarely is anything actually as good as the hype that surrounds it and there’s nothing worse than getting your hopes waaaaaaaaaay up for something, only to have them crash, not just to the ground, but straight down to the middle of the planet’s fiery, molten core. Right, Last Jedi?!
Oh, but what a fool I am. As you should expect by now. Because The Lies of Locke Lamora not only met all of my extremely-hyped-up expectations, but manages to deliver a fast-paced adventure with enough daring heists, incredible stakes, and impossible odds to make this one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Life is harsh on the mysterious island of Camoor, and Locke Lamora is no stranger to death and danger. Under the training of a master con-artist, Locke became the leader of the Gentleman Bastards, a band of gifted, light-fingered brothers, infamous among the city’s upper class, and all under the nose of even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But even as he puts his latest heist into motion, something terrible lurks within the shadows. With all that he cares for threatened by a terrible enemy, Locke must use all his skills and tricks to beat a madman at his own game – or die trying.
The fact that I loved this book should come as a surprise to approximately no one. First, because this book was published back in 2006 and pretty much everyone already knows how great this book is. It’s already received incredible praise from reviewers far greater than I, and there are already two sequels out there with a fourth promised very soon.
If you look back into the distant horizon of popular culture, that little speck waving at you is me, miles behind the curve.
The other reason I was guaranteed to love this book can be summed up simply and neatly by the fact that this whole book is the snarkiest, funniest thing I have ever read. Everything from the narration to the titular Locke is filled with sass and sarcasm, delivering snappy lines that had me laughing out loud in the middle of my work’s breakroom – it was completely worth all the odd looks that got me.
This book is not only funny, it’s smart. From quippy one-liners to intricate heists, there’s so much thought and intelligence behind every aspect of this book. Locke himself is one of my new favourite examples of a clever hero done right: his reputation makes him out to be an expert swordsman, a deadly assassin, and a cunning mastermind, and only one of those things is even remotely true. It’s actually refreshing to see a thief hero whose talents actually revolve around his ability to be cunning and sneaky rather than open combat. And it allows Lynch to spread other talents around the Gentleman Bastards to make it feel more like a band of brothers than a one man show, which it so easily could have been.
“You’ve got that motherly concern in your eyes, Jean. I must look like I’m hammered as sh*t,” said Locke.
“Actually you look like you were executed last week.”― Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Gentleman Bastards are the best part of this book for me. It’s not easy to write an ensemble cast but, although Locke is definitely our lead, Lynch manages to flesh out the rest of the cast into fantastic characters in their own rights and absolutely essential to the success of their band. I loved these guys. Every one of them. They all had a real sense of camaraderie about them as well as a genuine friendship – the kind that’s formed from long years of dodging death and danger side by side. Lynch also makes them feel like real teenage boys, complete with all the stupid stunts and affectionate insults that somehow bond them all together. They’re basically a family – a family of thieves and con-artists, but a family nonetheless. And it’s great.
The world building is also fantastic. There’s a sense of real history behind the city of Camoor, far beyond the daily lives of its people, and Lynch weaves it in expertly throughout the story. The narrative is mostly straightforward, and we get details through the eyes of our characters, but we also get flashbacks to Locke and the rest of the Gentleman learning their trade and developing their characters in a way that would have been lost in a more linear structure. And interspersed among these chapters are, essentially, short history lessons about the city – ranging from the rise of a criminal empire to a grudge held over a sports match! All of it enriched the story, whether it was establishing important backstories or just building on themes and motivations. Some readers might not appreciate these detours, and they can feel a bit like mini exposition dumps, but as someone who loves world building and lore, this just added to my enjoyment of the book.
“Gods, I love this place,” Locke said, drumming his fingers against his thighs. “Sometimes I think this whole city was put here simply because the gods must adore crime. Pickpockets rob the common folk, merchants rob anyone they can dupe, Capa Barsavi robs the robbers and the common folk, the lesser nobles rob nearly everyone, and Duke Nicovante occasionally runs off with his army and robs the shit out of Tal Verarr or Jerem, not to mention what he does to his own nobles and his common folk.”― Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
The story on it’s own is fantastic. And despite being the first in a series, it wraps itself up so nicely that you could read it on it’s own and still be satisfied. I really don’t want to say too much more for that small percentage of you that haven’t read it yet, but I will say that while I will never, ever get tired of seeing cunning thieves outsmart everyone they come across, this book manages to elevate the entire premise into something incredible. It’s smart, funny, filled with tension, and absolutely unafraid to pit our heroes against the worst kinds of odds. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and I am so excited to see what happens next.
Let’s just hope I don’t stumble onto any spoilers before I find the sequels!
Final Thoughts: An absolute masterpiece. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a story as witty, cunning, and cut throat as it’s protagonist and I cannot wait to finish the rest of this stunning series. Definitely my pick for favourite book I’ve reviewed this year!
Thanks for reading everyone.