The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
Locke Lamora, the head of a gang of thieves calling themselves the Gentleman Bastards, is one of the most gifted con artists the city of Camorr has ever seen – if not the very best. Channeling his inner Robin Hood, Lamora only steals from the rich, and his band of Oliver Twist orphans become his family at an early age. When a dark force starts following him and threatening everything and everyone he knows, however, his life of elaborate schemes becomes a quest to stay alive.
Lynch has painted an incredible world with a rich backstory and culture, shown to the reader through side chapters and Lamora’s playing characters from a variety of places. Camorr itself is a city built on water, with dangerous canals and sharks making rickety dwellings all the worse. I loved the way magic and alchemy were used for the fantastical aspect, but they weren’t accessible by anyone, and those who possessed magic weren’t your nice Hogwarts students.
The structure is a split narrative, with chapters alternating from the present to the story of Locke as a young boy and how he got involved with the Gentleman Bastards. As the novel reaches its apex, the flashbacks turn into brief history lessons served to help the reader better understand the actions and consequences of the coming events. These flashbacks helped further flesh out the character of Locke, but also of his fellow Bastards and those relationships. While not everything is answered, (how did Locke come to meet Bug? What happened to Sabetha?), I can only guess some of these answers might come to light in future books in the series.
The plot is mysterious, interweaving, and, especially at the end, fast-paced, especially for a 700+ page book. There are so many layers that Lynch does a wonderful job interweaving, and I do love a good twisting plot that keeps me guessing. While the climax was slightly predictable, I still felt the rush of angst over whether or not Locke would save the day, and I appreciated that it wasn’t all too easy for him in his attempt. Lynch isn’t afraid to kill some of your favorite characters, and won’t make it easy for them to escape peril.
And oh, the characters. How I love them. Some of my favorite characters are the ones who are clever and sassy, and Locke fits the bill. I couldn’t wait to read about/figure out how he’d escape each situation, but I also loved his love and compassion for his friends and his pride in his work. I love Jean like a big giant teddy bear, even though he’s nothing of the sort. And I want to take Bug into a big hug.
I wish there were more women; towards the end those included start to play a bigger part, but, again, where was Sabetha? I could do with a strong woman, though did appreciate those that were there, and that they all weren’t just used as flower pieces.
It’s long, but it’s captivating, and the only reason I didn’t finish it sooner was because I didn’t have the chunk of time available to do so (and had to start back at work, which drained me mentally for a good two weeks).
Brilliant, complex, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one.
Also, this was a FIRST NOVEL? I’m floored.