Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch


In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part “Robin Hood”, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

RATING: ☆★☆★

My legs are so toned from climbing the stairs back to a higher moral ground after reading this book but I would still throw the version of myself who hasn’t picked it up sooner down a set of stairs because this was the most fun I had in a while why did I deprive myself of it?

So, what’s this book about?

The Lies of Locke Lamora, not-so-delicately traces the path back to the past of Locke Lamora, beginning with The Thiefmaker who—after waking up to the realization that the Lamora orphan could be underestimated only at great peril to one’s health—sells him to Chains, the faking Eyeless Priest. Chains takes Locke under his criminal wing in what could only be considered a spectacular act of deathbed vengeance, and for years, he represses Locke’s unrelenting—and oftentimes fatal—capacity for conniving and instead, guides him into cultivating a keenly honed ability to bullshit, wide-eyed and plausibly and at the drop of a hat. Then it travels back to the present day where Locke and his band of oddly pleasant crazy thieves are in the midst of their latest—and biggest—con of the nobility of the land of Camorr.

With each successful con, fate’s bowstring seems to be drawing taut and Locke—heck, even the reader—is waiting for the moment when all hell breaks loose. For many pages, hell seems content to stay bound….until Camorr’s long, dark time tracks Locke down. The newly-arrived Gray King is assassinating gang leaders and the secret police of Camorr’s legendary Spider is hunting down Locke.

The city of Camorr has upended the board, and Locke Lamora is one of the scattered pieces. Locke soon finds out that one can only get so far on their aptitude to bullshit alone.

“Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”
“Oh please,” said Locke. “It’ll never happen.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora is like, a grown-up version of Six of Crows with an enduring sense of larcenous fun, a torrent of polysyllabic profanity and dark madcap humor, but to my eternal dismay… less women. And while Kaz Brekker comes off as a grizzled, hard-bitten, 40-year-old black-and-white film noir anti-hero crammed into the body of a teenager, Locke Lamora is pretty much the opposite…and with much more chill.

The story runs non-linearly, jumping back and forth between the past and the present, and shades in between. The effect was disorienting at first as the story sometimes overspills the bounds of its plot and struggles to carry a burdensomely large web of uninteresting narrative details and interpersonal relationships and I would often find myself drifting between intrigued and indifferent. But quick as a magician’s sleight of hand, The Lies of Locke Lamora knocks the bottom out of that casual disinterest within a handful of chapters. (A reader’s mileage may, of course, vary on this point.)

Those quibbles aside, there’s a great deal to enjoy in The Lies of Locke Lamora. The world of Camorr is solidly-crafted and bursting with detail and the vivid, oftentimes violent, action unfolds slowly, propelled by political machinations and anchored in complex character development. It’s heavy stuff, full of blood and murder and a terrible clear-eyed certainty that Locke’s reckoning had finally come, but it’s leavened by the snarking banter between the leads. (Seriously, this book is hilarious.)

The Lies of Locke Lamora also has magic in bounds and mysteries by the minute and the best part is that just when you think you’ve seen the explosion and let your guard down a little, another one happens. There are moments of victory where I whooped with joy, and there are moments of absolute terror, where everything seems as though it will fall apart. And I think this book works because Locke is such an interesting character, and the author constantly keeps you off guard as to his truths and intent.

I also loved how the author never takes the easy way out. He puts many obstacles both physical and emotional in the characters’ path, tortures the hell out of them and makes them better characters for it. Locke is one brilliant son of a bitch—he seems unthreatening and eccentric, until one understood what deep power lay behind his frail facade. However, he’s not beyond going under, pulled along by currents he can’t control and do not understand, carried out to a larger, unknown sea. And I think that’s where this book was more successful than Six of Crows: the world did not always bend to Locke Lamora, it did not always fit into his order of things and that felt a lot more realistic.

“To us — richer and cleverer than everyone else!” 

I personally think this was triumph of a novel. I never know where Lynch is going to take us, in this world of thieves and blood and revenge, but I am more than happy to continue along the journey with him!

One thought on “Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch

  1. EM this review is amazing, one of my favourite you’ve ever done. And I agree so much about it seeming more realistic because things go wrong a lot more often. I need to read the rest of these books asap


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