Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
Series: Gentleman Bastard #1
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…
A part of me wants to key-smash through this whole book because this book is sooooo good, guys! Like bfoewbfoioafggfSGAAJHFIWSOFN-levels of good. It has been too long since I just fell in love with a new story, so I just want to gush and force everyone to read it. The worst part is that I don’t even like heists or all male cast that much!!! (Also, let me tell you that the audiobook narrated by Michael Page is phenomenal!)
My main criticism of this book is that the beginning is really slowed-paced. I listened to the first two hours of the audiobook in about two weeks because the plot hadn’t fully rolled in, and Lynch takes his sweet time with the worldbuilding. What I can say is that the characterizations are very strong from the start. Overall, I think it is kind of effective because, by the time the main villain arrives, the plot doesn’t get boggled down by the core worldbuilding. The remaining twenty hours of the audiobook I listened to in two days and a half. So if you’re finding it slow at first, I’d recommend that you power through it because it becomes incredibly addicting once it does get started.
My second main criticism regards the treatment of female characters. There were no leading women in this first book, even though there were important, competent secondary female characters. Honestly, I have a lot of hope for future books to fix this because I didn’t think its treatment of women was bad, just lacking. In this world, women are allowed to be fighters as much as men which is why I’m surprised that there wasn’t a female lead. (I do have to complain about that fridging though.)
Now onto the things I loved…
The heists and cons were very well crafted. Lynch mixes the mundane tropes with fantastical elements, so it never feels like a rehash. Some information is withheld from the reader at times which always kind of bothers me, especially given that the point of view is close third person. It’s kind of a convention in the heist genre, so I get why it was done. Watching the results was always a delight, because, damn, Locke is one of the cleverest characters I’ve ever read about. Lynch goes on and on about how Locke is great at what he does, and he actually shows you.
Conversely, one of the strongest aspects of the book is how the characters also mess up regularly. Yes, Locke is very clever, but not clever enough to outsmart everyone at all times. This makes the stakes feel real, the tension earned. The solutions don’t feel cheap because of how much they cost. Also, Locke is not a Mary Sue by any means; he’s not idealized but flawed in a hundred ways. He’s a terrible fighter, not that handsome, and sometimes quite rash, but you end up loving and rooting for him all the more.
The characters are just great. I got soooooo invested. Part of that is because Lynch is very good at characterization. He takes his time to show the characters and how they interact with each other. The repartee is very funny (though sometimes a bit vulgar) and gives the reader insight into who these people are. Jeanne, for example, work perfectly as a character in his own right that goes beyond the archetype. He’s the brawler, yes, but he’s also just as smart as Locke in a different way and probably the most sensitive character out of the bunch.
Also I have a thing for found families who’d do everything for each other and this is just soooooo that trope, and it’s executed beautifully. The loyalty… I cry. Everything still hurts so thank you, Scott Lynch.
The flashbacks, which could have easily bogged down the book, only add to it. There’s a lot of characterization and worldbuilding put into them, but they are interesting enough to stand on their own while also foreshadowing what is to come in interesting ways. Also Locke as kid is just adorable. Lynch knows how to use them. There was one particular solemn moment is a flashback which cuts the present timeline in the most hilarious way possible; I had to stop the audiobook because I was laughing so hard, and that was the moment where I realized I had fallen for this book, for these characters.