Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora | Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastards #1)

in #books5 years ago

I've heard many, many great things about this, Scott Lynch's debut novel, and the first of his Gentlemen Bastards sequence. Does it live up to the high praise?

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Image from Amazon.

Published in 2006, by Bantam Spectra in the U.S. and Gollancz in the U.K.

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I wonder how much I would've enjoyed this had my reading habits not evolved from how they were closer to the beginning of the year, or even the middle of the year. I was, at the time, devouring fantasy novels effectively exclusively. To prevent burn-out, I declared a "sabbatical" from fantasy in favor of some nonfiction and some less traditional fantasies.

Instead, I find that my reading habits have simply evolved and that traditional fantasies still have their place, if not a place as large as when I was reading Long Price Quartet, Dagger and the Coin, Stormlight Archive (this before book reviews took over from soundtrack reviews), First Law, and the first books of several series that I plan to continue - really!

My intake is, I think, far more balanced. Non-fiction mixed with fiction. Biographies and books of essays, fantasy and literary. I have been devouring books the way characters in books always talk about, and I can't help but wonder why I didn't start sooner.

I just finished reading the other day Ten Years in the Tub, a collection of Nick Hornby's columns of "What I've Been Reading," written for The Believer, a magazine about literature and the arts. As a result my TBR list has grown by a dozen books.

I finished just Saturday In the Land of Invented Languages, by Akira Okrent, about exactly as the name suggests - invented languages. It's something of a history of them, even providing examples for many notable languages the author highlights. I read it because it sounded interesting and because I have been reading a good deal about it - not as much as previous sudden interests, but enough.

In between all this, I've been reading Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, a book I checked out more for the author then because the in-flap or back captured me (neither did that much) and I have been enjoying it more then I thought I would. (Sometimes, it is worth listening to the critics and the praise and to the name on the spine.)

Anyway. Enough of my blogging.

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As debuts go, I would put this over just about every other debut novel I've reviewed here. I almost want to say it's the best since any writer since Tolkien or Peake, but that would be laying it on thick.

I feel confident, though, in saying that Scott Lynch is probably the funniest writer of fantasy, better and sharper and wittier then Joe Abercrombie by some measure. Certainly he's far, far, far beyond the oft-juvenile humor of Sanderson...

In any case, of all the fantasy series' I have started but not yet finished, this will be the first I come back to.


Every so often, you come across a book that you could reasonably describe as so very well put together in its design that any flaws it may have can be easily ignored. A Game of Thrones is one such example, there is nothing that can be done to improve it. Truman is another and John Adams comes very close.

The Lies of Locke Lamora comes very, very close. Here, it is because of flashbacks, taking us from where we are in the story to Locke's training under Father Chains. Through this, Lynch links together the past and the present, interweaving it all together.

It is also because of its pacing. This book just flies by and I mean that in the very best of ways. It is, admittedly, a little slow in the beginning, but this is okay. Wit carries you through and so does the prose: he creates a mental image in my mind, of the city of Camorr, better than any other writer has been able to. Once the plot begins to pick up, though, it becomes difficult to put down.

And it's a marvelous plot: the "game" of deception against a Don so that the Gentlemen Bastards can pick up another fortune. And this soon leads Locke and his gang into the 'war' between the mysterious Grey King and the Capa Barsavi, who runs the crime in Camorr.

Again, I must point out Lynch's sense of humor. Great lines abound. "Nice bird, asshole" has become something of a legend among fantasy readers.


Though this is a very, very impressive debut, as I said, it does have a few problems that leaped out at me. Within the book these are outweighed enormously by the considerable strength of plotting, pacing, and humor (almost got that alliteration) - but they're still there. I will say only that all of these are subjective.

Through this book, many characters are killed, often in rather painful ways, but the problem here is that their deaths don't quite have the impact that they should because they lack the characterization necessary for those deaths to make an impact.

The Grey King's origins seem too convenient and lacking in connection with the rest of the narrative - this would not be a problem but for that the rest of the narrative is so excellently interweaved together that to find something not weaved in so well jumps out as something of a dissonance.

And, at last, and most subjectively of all, everything seems to wrap up very tidily. Yes, Locke and Jean must leave; yes, everyone else is dead; but it seemed to me like the conclusion of an episodic television series. There wasn't much to leave the impressive of an overall story arc to extend across the series, just faint hints of something.

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Though I have levied a couple criticisms, there are minor next to the many other strengths of the novel, and I personally look forward to reading Red Seas Under Red Skies. It seems to be, looking back over this review, that I may need to put a re-read into it at some point in the future. I think, too, that as I read further, that I will appreciate this first novel more.

I will say, also, that typically I begin writing my review the day of or after finishing reading, whereas it has now been over a week since I finished Lies.

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Yes, another Miscellany section!

Firstly, very happy holidays to anyone that may be reading.

Second, sometime around the New Year I will be creating a "masterpost" linking to everything I have posted since I began on Steemit. I am doing this because I, for one, find it frustrating to dig through a user's posts to find the one post I actually want to read and I imagine I am not the only one to find this frustrating.

This post will then be linked to in every post in 2019 and, New Years' 2020, I'll post a 2019 Masterpost. (This way, no one need ever dig through reams and reams of reviews to find the one review they actually want to read.

Third, very happy holidays to you all!

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A great review! I love how you have organized your thoughts about this book. And I also love how many other titles you have name dropped! You have me off adding to my TBR list.

It's always good to grow one's TBR list! If only there was more time in the day to read them all.

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed. :)

Amazing review! And the masterpost idea sounds great, I support it and I'd love it if each of my favorite authors implemented it.

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