The Lies of Locke Lamora


Scott Lynch


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

February 24, 2009

he Lies of Locke Lamora is Scott Lynch's first novel? Really? Wow! This is an impressive piece of storytelling. I hope Lynch's first novel isn't the best thing he ever writes, but sometimes a writer can never recapture the magic of the first book. Don't you agree that Stormbringer was Michael Moorcock's best novel? That was Moorcock's first novel. I see that Scott Lynch has already published a sequel, with a third book due out this summer (2009). I hope they maintain the high level of story-telling displayed by this novel!

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the story of an orphan named Locke Lamora who is taken in by a gang of thieves called the Gentlemen Bastards. Locke is taught all the skills needed by a thief - pickpocketing, disguises, weapons - he soon displays an uncanny knack for elaborate schemes with big payoffs. The biggest danger is that Locke steals from the wrong people and incurs the vengeful wrath of the powerful.

Everything about this novel is original and interesting. The setting is great: the novel takes place in the city of Camorr. Camorr has the potential to become on of the great cities of fantasy literature, like Lanhkmar or New Corbuzon. Camorr has been built up around the ruins of a vanished civilization, which left behind five huge towers made of a glass-like substance. The ancient towers are indestrucible. The tower glass has the strange property of temporarily retaining light, so that for the first hour after sunset, the towers glow with an eerie inner light. The towers are depicted on the cover of the novel. Hopefully, the subsequent novels explore more of this exotic location.

Besides the glass towers, there are some other nifty ideas here. I like the dangerous plants that look like roses - if their thorns scratch you, the plant will suck your blood. I like the ferocious sea monsters in the offshore waters (Camorr is a seaport.) I like the drugged animals that are pacified. I like the strange religious cults. There is a lot of imagination on display here.

The characters in this novel are excellent. The protagonist is Locke Lamora, who is likable despite the fact he is a thief. Locke is small of stature, but he uses his wits to establish himself as a formidable opponent. The other Gentleman Bastards that form Locke's team are equally likable and well drawn - Jean is the big guy who has trained with weapons (but he isn't an unthinking muscle brute, Jean is just as clever as Locke), there are the twins, and there is young Bug. Bug is the newest addition, a little guy who is desperate to prove his worth to the team.

The plot in this novel is terrific. Lynch does a great job of telling a suspenseful story. Locke's opponents set some difficult traps, and each time it seems there is no possible way for him to escape. Locke and his crew face an ever rising tide of challenges from a host of ruthless bad-guys and outraged citizens that they have robbed. The secret police of Camorr are after them. The Grey King is after him, and he has an invincible sorceror working for him. The crime lord of Camorr, the brutal Capa Brasi, would kill Locke in an instant if he realized that Locke was more than just simple street thief. To battle these foes, Locke has his wits and his bravado - he can succeed only by outsmarting his opponents. Locke bluffs, cajoles, demands and fools the other citizens of Camorr as he works his schemes. Locke uses disguises and lies to fool his foes, but none-the-less, the bad guys are a determined and resourceful bunch, and not everything goes well for Locke. I think this makes for a better novel, because Locke is not protrayed as an invincible hero outsmarting a host of duffers, the perils he faces seem more dangerous. There are some suspenseful moments.

I really enjoyed this novel. It is full of vivid images; the story has a breakneck pace; the peril to Locke seems genuine - there are some brutal scenes described here, and some of the likable characters perish. The bad guys are particularly nasty, though Locke is no saint himself. I recommend this book.