Ever since I read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn : The Final Empire, I have had a hankering to read something featuring heists and a healthy dose of captivating cunning. Luckily, I stumbled across Scott Lynch's debut novel and spent a happy day reading about the comedic capers of his con artists.
The Lies Of Locke Lamora is the first of seven planned novels in the Gentleman Bastard sequence by Scott Lynch. It introduces us to Locke Lamora and his merry band of mischief makers, risk-takers, adventurous actors and talented thieves. Set in Camorr, the story begins in the middle of a trap that the Bastards have set to rob a wealthy noble, Don Salvara. While continuing to bait and rob the Don, the thieves have to deal with the undercurrents of the criminal underworld which is growing increasingly restive due to a series of murders of prominent gang leaders by a mysterious figure only known as the Gray King. The head of the underworld, Capa Barsavi's growing paranoid and desperate to resolve these disturbances before it attracts the notice and ire of the Duke of Camorr, ruler of the city. How our characters get involved, navigate these dangerous waters, make choices which affect Camorr's future while trying to stay alive (and make a profit) forms the rest of the tale.
It would be wrong to start expressing my views of the book with anything but the titular character, Locke Lamora. A reckless, lying, borderline narcissistic yet charming bastard - he is the highlight of the book. If you have read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, I will tell you this, Lamora makes Kelsier pale in terms of 'having a blast'. He's not handsome, doesn't have any supernatural abilities and would be generally ignorable in a crowd except for his silver tongue. And boy does he put it to good use by shamelessly lying his way through tight spots. There are other characters in the book but they don't come off as well-developed as Lamora, which is partly to the amount of flashbacks and POVs devoted to him throughout the book. The supporting cast misses on the character development front, but shines with the (few) attributes they are given.
“... It's perfect! Locke would appreciate it." "Bug," Calo said, "Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are 'Locke would appreciate it.'" "Rivalled only by 'Locke taught me a new trick,'" added Galo. "The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games ..." "... is Locke ..." "... because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons ..." "... and fifty thousand cheering spectators.” - Scott Lynch, the Lies of Locke Lamora
It helps though that Scott Lynch has a gift for world building and witty exchanges. Camorr, the venice-like setting of the novel, is described so colorfully, that at times I felt I was sitting next to the Bastards in their boat, running through backstreets and on rooftops with them, crossing the Elderglass bridges scared for my life. Lynch's prose is beautiful, full of literary devices, yet not too flowery and effortlessly readable. The storyline is non-linear, with interludes which feel like information dumps but are saved by the writing. Magic is sparse and stays in the background similar to George R.R. Martin's style in A Game Of Thrones and makes a sudden appearance in the end. There are hints of an Eldren race, legends of the Therin empire, clues about estranged love - all of which are tantalizing hooks for the next book.
So, final words? Rush to the nearest store now. Mr. Lynch's debut novel is brilliant and infectious fun. There are minor flaws which are more than made up by the protagonist's charismatic character. It's pure pleasure watching him winging through terse situations, outwitting his oppenents with a smirk or getting royally screwed. There is action, swearing, capers, twists and humor in dollops but Lynch manages to handle them well. I am late to the party, but I am glad I read this book and will definitely pick up the sequel!