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Book: “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch
Publishing Info: Spectra, September 2006
Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!
Book Description: An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
Review: I’ve seen this book popping up on “best of” fantasy lists for quite some time. Likewise, it has been languishing on my TBR list for years now. But, as December is always a really slow time of year for new books, I figured now was the time to get to this one. I also found a very good audiobook version at the library with a narrator who I’ve always enjoyed listening to. I don’t have a lot more to say about the audiobook version in particularly, so I’ll just preface the entire review with a general recommendation to try out this version if you enjoy audiobooks as a whole.
If one can call an orphan “lucky,” Locke Lamora is it. Having escaped the tragic fate of many such children, he grew up under the tutelage of a master con artist and now runs his own gang of thieves and tricksters. So deep are their cons that even the renowned gangster lords who rule the streets are unaware of just how successful Locke’s small band really is. But, in the midst of what should be one of their biggest takes yet, things begin to unravel beneath Locke’s feet. And as the noose slowly tightens, Locke must face his most cunny adversary yet.
This was a really enjoyable read! As I said earlier, the narrator did a fantastic job, his style very much emphasizing the excellent dialogue written for all of the characters. The story plays out in a rather unique way, with a lot of time jumps and such. Which means that as the story continues, we’re slowly piecing together Locke’s life up to this point, how he gained the skills he did, and how he formed the friendships that are at the heart of his existence. However, we also don’t get all of the information. For example, there is a love interest who is repeatedly referenced. But we never see this character, not in the flashbacks and also not in the present. It’s an interesting and bold choice, to have so many references that are just left hanging until the next book. Personally, as this book felt full to the brink as it was, I was fine with this choice. But it could nag at other readers to a certain extent.
There were also interludes between certain chapters which told various stories and histories of this world. I found these to also be very interesting. I’m not sure if the physical book had a map or any sort of glossary, but I would say this was the one area where I struggled with the audiobook version. While all of this extra detail added flavor and texture to the world, very much making it feel like a living, breathing place, I also struggled to keep track of all of the locations and people. This is very much a high fantasy story, and with that comes a whole bunch of new words and names, which added to some of my struggles.
I really enjoyed the story and action found in this book. There were definitely a few shocks and twists, especially around the midway point of the book, that really threw me off of what I had thought was the direction of the story to come. But I also struggled a bit with some of these plot points. This book is going on twenty years old, at this point. Which means there have been a lot of “brilliant thief” books to come out since. And I’ve read a bunch of them. That being the case, I kept having expectations of certain characters and certain plot twists, and kept feeling a bit let down when things resolved in a different way. Like I said, I think this is very much a “me” issue and comes from having read books like this that, in the twenty years since this book was written, have pushed the boundaries on this sort of story. So while much of this is perfectly good and still very enjoyable, there were aspects of it that felt a bit dated, particularly to those who have read books like this before.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to most high fantasy readers, especially those who like action-packed stories full of twists and turns.
Rating 9: Witty and clever, much like its titular character, this book is definitely deserving of its placement on many “best of” fantasy lists!