“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”
— Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
This is my 2016 coup de coeur. Only a very few books are able to suck me into a place so magnificently beautiful that I forget where I’m laying down, what’s around me and what time it is. This gift of literature is an unsettling and staggering creation. It bestowed upon me so much joy, shock and thrill, that, more often than not, I felt like I was living in a world that actually exists. Camorr was presented in such a stunning fashion that I just couldn’t stop imagining it as a real universe, something that someone would call a parallel world. Something that would reverberate as the underground, shady and dark burrows of Earth. The ingredients in this exquisite recipe are varied in so many ways, it’s just vertiginous. The Lies of Locke Lamora is hilarious, savage, witty, complex and engrossing. It doesn’t ever fail in creating a bona fide story filled with charming, yet treacherous characters. Although it is only the beginning of the adventures of some of the greatest characters ever, this novel is a dragon that I will have trouble chasing after. This is the tale of Locke Lamora and the Gentlemen Bastards.
The island city of Camorr is one of the most authentic and unbelievable world that I’ve ever known to this date. Scott Lynch depicts the society that inhabits it with razor sharp details. It’s fair to say that there’s enough information on the different classes to understand the underlying laws that make the gears roll fluidly in this very population. The norms that exists, the unspoken rules that covers it all, the manners that needs to be respected, every single detail is told with purpose and with an absolute finesse. The world-building is so rich, a sociological analysis of the city of Camorr isn’t close to an impossibility. It’s a true chef d’oeuvre. While the setting does an unbelievable job at enriching the experience, the tale presented and the characters that come and go make The Lies of Locke Lamora a pure masterpiece. The best part of this novel is the amount of wit that is intertwined in the fine fibers of the plot. If every book had the calculated and dosed comprehension of impeccable ingenuity that graces every character, the setting and the plot, the whole world would have their noses in a book. Forever. At least I know I would be.
The story isn’t one that should be summarized. I’ve discovered this novel through reviews of a young adult novel that goes by the title of Six of Crows. While it had glowing reviews—and I do agree with them—my curiosity was piqued when their were mentions of an adult fantasy world that was just as or even more mesmerizing. Set in a world of its own, where the general vibe is dark and mysterious one side, and rich and powerful the other, everything from the clothing to the dark and narrow alleys resonates life and death hand in hand. The Lies of Locke Lamora is the story of an orphan child with unbelievable thieving skills and an even more fascinating mind. His talent preceded him and got him handed over to Chains, a blind priest. While Chains is perceived by the people as one individual, certain members know what truly hides behind his mask. The story builds up and reveals us who the Gentlemen Bastards are, and even more importantly, who the Thorn of Camorr is.
This first book in an ongoing series is a vicious introduction to the world of Camorr and the dreadful sinners that roam it. The story doesn’t jump right into the core problematic that drives Locke Lamora and friends into a dreadful adventure. It rather indulges itself in building its characters through a clever use of flashbacks and by setting up the Gentlemen Bastards rare, but successful, big heist. While the main plotline is beautifully developed and becomes slowly, but surely, exciting, flashback sequences are weaved throughout the book. This chapters not only serve as character development, but also strengthens bonds between characters and unravels the motives and beliefs of each and every person. I absolutely love how plot-driven these chapters are, since they can also serve as moments to insert hints of foreshadowing. I’ve never felt any of the chapters as irrelevant or even uneventful. In fact, when the main plot line starts to heat up, Scott Lynch gladly hands you an interlude to raise the suspense to a climax. As messed up as that is, I came to love the way he built the novel. It’s because of moments like those that I found myself reading the book beyond 3 a.m. without realizing I was reading for hours.
The main plotline is one that will slowly chain you and drag you to the end. Nothing is stale, everything is latent. One second you’ll forget something, the next it will jump at you like some sort of sewer spider. The humor and the wit in this novel blend together in perfect harmony, and I strongly believe that those two elements alone have made this novel a classic in fantasy. While you learn about Locke Lamora and the Gentlemen Bastards and all their devious plans, Scott Lynch will drop an outright game-changer by presenting the Grey King. Like the Thorn of Camorr, he’s depicted as a myth, but the plot will make sure to unriddle his existence and spice things up. His impact on the stories direction will be tremendous, and its from this moment on that you’ll realize that you’ll have grown attached to a lot of characters in ways that you didn’t even think possible. That’s how magical this read is. It not only builds the world and the characters with a chef’s savoir-faire, it also bewitches you and makes sure to have your heart connected to the novel.
Deceit reached new heights in this book. Rare are authors who are able to control their universe like Scott Lynch does. Every single detail is his to manipulate and he knew that. Readers are forced to kneel to everything he offers and don’t have much opportunity to guess where things are going. That feeling of being completely at the mercy of the author throughout this book made me feel all giddy and flabbergasted. I just loved how, with the flick of a pen, he was able to mind-blow me and fool me, as if I was one of the victims of the Gentlemen Bastards. Lies play such a huge role in this book, and that’s not something to underestimate. It’s basically a criminal underbelly that is ruthless against the rich and high-ranked. Every character feels shady, but also relatable and lifelike. In all honesty, its how unique every voice in this novel is that makes this novel so memorable. Their personas are identifiable and never similar to one another. And with characters like these, the dialogue is magnificent. Vulgar and hilarious, every time someone opens their mouth, you are immediately enthralled by their charismatic selves. The Lies of Locke Lamora has, without any doubt, some of the most iconic characters to ever exist. And with believable characters comes believable lies.
This is a novel for anyone who wants to lose themselves in a fantasy world filled with its own history, rules and beliefs. Forged in gold, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a marvelous debut to a series that I cannot wait to continue. The chemistry between the characters and the incessant bombardment of adventure are some of the many reasons to jump into the world of Scott Lynch. While friendship, loyalty and trust are showcased in all their facets, the story is filled with lessons, and even more of occasions where you feel the hair on your arms raise. This is not a story for the faint of heart, because of its vulgarity both in speech and action. This is not a story for the fans of straight-forwardness, because of its pleasure in dwelling in dazzling descriptions and world-building. This is not a story for the impatient, because of its nature to build and deliver when the time is right. Scott Lynch can gladly flex his creativity muscles, because The Lies of Locke Lamora is a debut that any author would wish for. I’m looking forward to getting into its sequel, Read Seas Under Read Skies and to see what else the Gentlemen Bastards have in store for me.
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