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The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards) Mass Market Paperback – June 26, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Life imitates art and art scams life in Lynch's debut, a picaresque fantasy that chronicles the career of Locke Lamora—orphan, thief and leader of the Gentlemen Bastards—from the time the Thiefmaker sells Locke to the faking Eyeless Priest up to Locke's latest con of the nobility of the land of Camorr. As in any good caper novel, the plot is littered with obvious and not-so-obvious obstacles, including the secret police of Camorr's legendary Spider and the mysterious assassinations of gang leaders by the newly arrived Gray King. Locke's resilience and wit give the book the tragicomic air of a traditional picaresque, rubbery ethics and all. The villain holds the best moral justification of any of the players. Lynch provides plenty of historical and cultural information reminiscent of new weirdists Steven Erikson and China Miéville, if not quite as outré. The only drawback is that the realistic fullness of the background tends to accentuate the unreality of the melodramatic foreground. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
*Starred Review* On a distant world, orphan Locke Lamora is sold into a crew of thieves and con artists. Soon his natural gifts make him an underworld celebrity, leader of the flamboyantly larcenous Gentleman Bandits. But there is someone who covets Locke's talents, his success, his very life, forcing him to put everything on the line to protect himself. With a world so vividly realized that it's positively tactile, and characters so richly drawn that they threaten to walk right off the page, this is one of those novels that reaches out and grabs readers, pulling us into the middle of the action. With this debut novel, Lynch immediately establishes himself as a gifted and fearless storyteller, unafraid of comparisons to Silverberg and Jordan, not to mention David Liss and even Dickens (the parallels to Oliver Twist offer an appealing extra dimension to the story, although the novel is no mere reimagining of that Victorian classic). Fans of lavishly appointed fantasy will be in seventh heaven here, but it will be nearly as popular with readers of literary crime fiction. This is a true genre bender, at home on almost any kind of fiction shelf. Expect it to be among the year's most impressive debuts. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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I recently decided to give it another go, read it all through and bought the 2nd in the series right away.
First of all, it is very well written, plenty of subtle wit. The characters are quite well developed and you can see that the author has a lot of backstory about them. Locke is a bit perfect for my taste, but he is entertaining enough that I let it pass. And... he is a massive fail at combat, which is a nice twist and keeps him from being another cardboard hero.
The second bit is how atmospheric and well-described the world is. Camorr is a Venice-built-on-alien-ruins and Lynch totally runs with it. Its descriptions tease you and intrigue you, but do not overwhelm the story*. The somewhat Italian Renaissance names and society fit in perfectly and things are easy to visualize.
Set in a modern day crime novel, the plot would have enough twists and turns to keep you riveted. The Gentleman Bastards are confidence tricksters, grifters and con-men. Schemes meet counter-scams and you're almost expecting a Nigerian prince 419 phishing email to come along. Every so often, I would come to a point where I would think "but what about X? it makes no sense that...". You know, typical big gaping plot holes in silly books. And, every time, it turned out that what I thought was an oversight was actually built into it and made sense.
Finally, unlike many writers who believe that a good plot needs to be confusing, Lynch has kept it very simple and focused. At least after each twist.
In a low-magic medieval setting, with bloody, luscious, combat scenes**? This story rocks.
Last, how can one resist a novel with 'contrarequialla', scantily-clad women gladiators who fight in arenas against sharks? Where this makes sense, rather than being just "jumping the shark"? That's only 2 or 3, glorious, pages' worth, but it shows how well-thought out even minor bits of the story can be because you have two setup scenes before the main combat one with the requalias.
* I liked the descriptions myself, but they could be a bit much if you're not into descriptive novels. I'm on the fence - descriptions annoy me sometimes. These worked for me, but they're a biiiiiig part of the book.
** And... it's a very grim book at times, quite amoral and graphic in its violence.
If you're looking for a true swords and sorcery fantasy novel, this isn't your story. Aside from a few interesting elements that could only take place in the book's fantasy setting, the fantasy element itself is almost entirely secondary to the novel and, with some creative tweaks, could take place in the modern day. That said, still a great time!
The main story is a true page turner as Locke comes up with ingenious plans which never seem to go as predictably as he would hope. However, the author loves to leave cliffhangers and interrupt with flashbacks to Locke's childhood. The flashbacks are usually both fun and relevant, but they quickly became annoying as an artificial suspense mechanism. That being said, they're short enough that you're never left wondering what will happen for too long.
The story is fun and the characters are enjoyable, but be warned, the plot does take some darker turns as well. As young and fun-loving as the characters are, the world feels real, complete with a seedy underbelly, and might not be for the faint of heart. But those who follow Locke's travels and travails will be rewarded for it.
Locke and his crew are a bunch of orphans raised in the Venice inspired city of "Camorr." They work schemes, and tricks to rob people and work there way through the Camorri underworld. Then a Bondsmage shows up and all heck breaks loose.
Give it a try . . .
The dialogue is also, as others have said, snappy and wise-cracking; along the lines of great heist stories. I read voraciously, bit my nails, and was very satisfied by the ending. Best fantasy I've read in a while.