Monday, April 09, 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora, a Review

There are many different types of people throughout the port city-state of Camorr. You've got the gentry who living high above the filth and grime of the lower city. You've got the yellowjackets patrolling the town, who seem to be more willing to take a bribe than to actually do any policing. There are priests and priestesses of the Twelve, some more pious than others, but all respected by the cityfolk. There are pawnbrokers and money lenders, sailors and spice merchants. There are many people in Camorr, many honest folk trying to make an honest living. And then there are the thieves.

Locke Lamora has had a knack for stealing things ever since he was a young lad. Taken by the Thiefmaker at an early age, the orphan boy proved to be more than the Thiefmaker could handle. Locke was traded (sold) off to another man, the Blind Priest of Perelandro named Chains. Here, under the tutelage of the "blind" wizened man, Locke began to learn the true art of thievery and deception.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a fast-paced yarn that guarantees to keep the Reader up long past bedtime. Locke is a fascinating character, instantly sympathetic and charming, but he's not the kind of man you'd necessarily want to be hanging around with. He's gifted at slight-of-hand, as is obvious from his introduction to the story, but he's also got a knack for bringing trouble. Lies is, at its simplest, a heist story about Locke and the Gentleman Bastards (the name of his gang) trying to rob a certain wealthy noble. The story is, however, not simple, and when one man tells lies for a living, life's bound to get complicated.

There are many memorable things from the book. What comes to mind first is the humor. Scott Lynch writes bloody brilliant dialogue (albeit rather blue) that more than once had me cackling like a loon. What's more, the dialogue comes across as genuine, almost as if Lynch spent some time with some con men in his day and picked up on the lingo. Even under pressure, Locke never loses his sarcastic mouth, and it was this humor that really shined.

Another piece of the book that was equally enjoyable was the fantastic world building. The city-state of Camorr is built on the ruins of some ancient civilization known as the Eldren. Not much is revealed about these mysterious ancients other than the ubiquitous glass structures that they left behind. Man does not know how they lived or what they did, and Lynch doesn't offer much (any?) assistance to the Reader, either. He hints at magic and arcane secrets, but hints are all we're given. This offered a lot of depth to the book, but it also leaves one a bit frustrated, too, as answers aren't forthcoming. I could go on and on about the world building, but I'll leave it with just this one piece, so as not to spoil anything.

Scott Lynch has sold me to his world from just one book. I'm curious to know so much more about so many things, but I'm also eager to get back with Locke again, too. The book is presented in an interesting way, following a Chapter-Interlude-Chapter method. Each chapter deals with the present, that being the heist story, while each Interlude deals with something else. For much of the book the Interludes are like a flashback for different characters, but as the book progresses, these sometimes become folktales or history lessons on the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and felt that it did wonders with the pacing of the novel.

The Lies of Locke Lamora has been out for a few years now. If you've not read it (or never heard of it, for that matter), then I suggest that you remedy that. The story telling is impeccable, the characters are unforgettable, and the action is high. There's humor aplenty, but sadness and despair aren't strangers, either. All in all, I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this book, but I'm ever so glad I did. Highly recommended.

7 comments:

ibeeeg said...

I loved this book! It almost made it to my Top 10 Favorite Books for 2011. It lost out by a smidge. It was my favorite book read during April 2011.

the writing was incredible for certain, but what really has stuck with me was the brutality of Locke's life...his lifestyle. Some of the scenes were horrific. What I loved best was the brotherhood between Locke and his fellow Gentleman. They were loyal to one another.

I am glad that you liked the book as well as you did.

Are you going to go onto reading Red Seas Under Red Skies with the group read? I am very much hoping that I will be able to participate in discussions.

Roza M said...

This looks interesting thanks for the post.

logankstewart said...

@ibeeeg: Locke's life was definitely brutal, definitely horrific. The camaraderie was perfect, though, and made the harshness bearable.

I'm not doing Red Seas. It wasn't on my Manifesto, nor does my library have it. I'll get it next year, maybe.

@Roza: Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the book if you pick it up.

David Wagner said...

I have enough fond memories of the read for this book to have a space on my Re-Read List, and I think your review just gave it a good nudge higher on the list. I wanted to read them both before Book 3 came out anyway... maybe after I finish First Law, I'll queue up the Gentlemen Bastards again...

Good review, bro.

logankstewart said...

@Dave: Sweet. The grittiness of Lies definitely will fit into the mood of Abercrombie's stories, that's for sure.

Diz said...

Logan,
Yeah, a little late to the party, I know....

Just finished. I really enjoyed the book. Wished we could have met Sabetha. Enjoyed the dichotomy of the Chains and the Gentlemen Bastards. Part thief, liar, and at times killer...part priest, ritualistic, and faithful.

One flaw, if I may. Locke just has a wee bit too much luck. Yes, his character is fashioned very well, but being victor against Gray in the final battle, and a few other "near" misses that a small, unskilled, man with nothing but his wits shouldn't have escaped.

Really enjoyed it. Slow down. I'm just starting Neverwhere and I can't keep up :)

logankstewart said...

@Diz: Yeah, I was curious about Sabetha, too. Maybe she'll play a part in the sequel?

What if Locke's luck is just a knack or some sort of "magic" he has? Either way, quite enjoyable! Enjoy Neverwhere!