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Book Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Synopsis:  An orphan’s life is harshand often shortin 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 Chainsa 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 orphansa 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 underworlds most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerfuland more ambitiousthan Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavis most trusted menand using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorrs 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 gameor die trying.

First Line:  “At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.”

Random Quote:  “At the heart of the Waste floated a fat, dismasted hulk, sixty yards long and nearly half as wide, anchored firmly in place by chains leading down into the water; two at the bow and two at the stern.  Camorr had never built anything so heavy and ungainly; that vessel was one of the more optimistic products of the arsenals of distant Tal Verrar, just as Chains had told Locke many years before.  Wide silk awnings now covered its high, flat castle decks; beneath those canopies parties could be thrown that rivaled the pleasure pavilions of Jerem for their decadence.  But at the moment the decks were clear of everything but the cloaked shapes of armed men, peering out through the rain – Locke could see at least a dozen of them, standing in groups of two or three with longbows and crossbows at hand.”

ReviewThe Lies of Locke Lamora was published in 2006 and I’m not sure how I missed it, but I am really glad that I’m reading it now.  For those of you who love your epic fantasy filtered through a B-movie eye, this is the series for you.

The Lies of Locke Lamora manages to take an Ocean’s Eleven-type caper movie and transport it into an alternate universe that might or not be Venice in what might or might not be the Renaissance.  The setting is rich with detail as Lynch builds out this bit of alternate history on the wreckage of an older civilization of glass towers and magical lights.

Epic fantasy can be difficult, if only because at some point the whole magic trumping all as our callow prince gallops off to rescue the princess and the world gets kind of boring sometimes.  I much prefer the rogues of classic story – the light-fingered and lethal, quick to steal your wallet or your purse and anything else you have on offer.  The last time I played a formalized game of Dungeons and Dragons I played online with friends.  The characters of myself and another player (both of us thieves) got booted out of our party for our various wrongdoings (who knew they’d object to us running for cover with the treasure at every opportunity).  We were good sorts, of course, just out for ourselves.

Scott Lynch has written a great epic fantasy with smart characters, intelligent plotting, and lots of twists and turns.  Dubious heroes appear and are vanquished or rescued by their villainous counterparts, all playing across a gorgeous tapestry of story.  Highly recommended.

FTC Disclosure:  I bought it for myself from my favorite new comic book store (Fantastic Comics in Berkeley)


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