My daughter recommended this book to me, we are both lovers of good fantasy fiction along with the odd sci fi novel. She recommended it to me as ‘really good world building’. Her recommendations are generally good so I was disposed to be impressed.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first novel of Scott Lynch, and the first of a series about the Gentlemen Bastards. In the beginning our hero is little more than an infant who is introduced into the world of the ‘Right People’, the criminal fraternity of Camorr. His story moves backwards and forwards in time as it develops, and that development is masterly.
The story moves at a rattling pace, the world and the characters developing rapidly. Almost every chapter introduces a new layer of complexity to the story but done in such a way that you never lose track of what is going on. I was about to say that the main thread is the story of a long con, but in truth it isn’t. The main story is the bonding of a band of brothers known as The Gentlemen Bastards, a small gang of gifted con artists, and their desire to fulfil the purpose of their mentor.
Locke Lamora is a true hero, and will gather a following all his own. The whole story has a renaissance feel to it,Locke has a machiavellian mind that can see a way out of the most desperate situations, often at severe personal cost, but a way out none the less. He and his fellows take on a series of challenges and opponents that would make others blood run cold – it doesn’t always work out well and you will be there with them in the thick of it. They do it because in their world, it is the right thing to do. Criminals they may be, but there is a right way to do wrong.
The ‘world’ in a fantasy novel is a hugely important character, and often neglected but not so here. Not only is the Dukedom of Camorr well developed, the wider world around it is not neglected. The consequences of trifling with other states and cultures are an unspoken menace hanging over seemingly minor actions. It’s not a book for the faint hearted, the violence is graphic, and Mr Lynch has a dramatists skill in making it very real, forcing you to invest your emotions in the aims of the characters. He is to be congratulated.
The many storylines are skillfully interwoven, a less well plotted novel would end up in an almighty tangle with so many story lines but here they flow in and out of each other seamlessly. No angle of the story is left untouched for too long and they come to a climax of such complexity that it is breathtakingly simple.
There is much swash and buckle, mental agility is essential and I defy anyone not to long to be a member of the Gentleman Bastards – more than a few will fall in love with Locke and with his world. Me, I’m off to grab the next instalment – Red Seas Under Red Skies.