Loved this one! Amazingly refreshing and intelligent!
Scott Lynch is considered one of the best newcomer in fantasy in recent years. The Lies Of Locke Lamora is the first book of the Gentleman Bastard sequence. The series will span seven books. The first two are already out and the third is having some delay (probably 2010).
We follow Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Camorr, a young orphan taken in charge in his early years by a group of thieves. Being too clever and troublesome for his Thiefmaker master, he's then taken to Chains, a falsely blind priest of the thieves God. Under his tutelage, he will learn the true art of robbery, being the ultimate con artist. Later on, Locke becomes the "garrista" (leader) of his band of thieves. While planning a big coup with his team, the Gray King shows up. This mysterious figure is set on killing members of Camorr thieving bands, while seeking revenge against Capa Barsavi, the head of crime in the city. Locke is then caught between his coup and the Gray King plans.
I found the story to be full of surprises. Lynch gives us a "cape and sword" book with intrigue, vengeance, fantasy and high caliber robbery. I had to keep guessing until the end. The author really gets down to business. The descriptions are concise and the right amount of action and adventure is put in. I wanted the adventure to keep going strong and it did all the way to the finale. The writing gives us a good rhythm of rises of adrenalin and smooth phases.
The narrative is told from a third person perspective. I think it fits well with the drama. The main protagonist, Locke Lamora is a character easy to love. I cared about him from the start. Even if he is the center of attention, Locke is surrounded by captivating allies and enemies. I think Scott gives ample room to the other characters (Jean, Chains and the whole band... even all of Locke "opponents"). Lynch is not afraid to kill important members of both side to ensure a realism (by taking account of the world in which the story occurs) to his plot.
We get to see some magic, but only to help the Gray King get his way. His ally is an enigmatic Bondsmage that has its uses but not much spotlight. There is also some hints about an alien race seemingly gone from the world. But the "fantasy" elements in the book are just enough for the sake of the tale.
The city in which we are immersed feels a lot like renaissance Venice (with the canals and the clothing). It's good to have some fantasy (although it's not really a perfectly good example of the genre) set in a world unlike the middle ages. We'll see in the upcoming books if the world in which Locke evolves is as detailed and compelling as the city of Camorr.
A very unusual aspect in the writing is the "Interludes" between some chapters. With that, we get some background about the characters while understanding more why and where we are going. The result is a great pace and a nice support for the development of the protagonists. The only problem with that will be with the following books. I don't think that Scott will use theses "Interludes" again... if so, he won't have enough stuff for seven books. But then, I don't think he absolutely needs this to write a good book.
I'm very eager to read the next one soon.
Technically, the McArthur and Company original cover is not very beautiful. However, the new edition is looking great. The map is sufficient but not absolutely necessary.
Note that you can read the prologue on Scott's page.
The Lies Of Locke Lamora review score:
Overall (not an average)