Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora [4★]

I never tire of fantasy fiction–of the multitudes of worlds that authors can imagine, of the systems of magic that they can conceive, and of the quests and adventures that never wear thin. Scott Lynch’s best selling novel The Lies of Locke Lamora is a delightful new foray into that vast and generous world of fantasy. 

The Lies of Locke Lamora tells the story of a clever and charming crew of thieves, led by master-of-disguise Locke Lamora.  The “Gentlemen Bastards”, as they call themselves, quietly defy the Secret Peace that maintains order in the Island of Camorr. Instead of robbing regular folks, merchants, and tradesmen like other good thieves, Lock and the Gentlemen Bastards pull off high-stakes, high-rewards scams on the highest classes of nobility. 

During their latest big job, however, Locke and his friends have become entangled in something far more dangerous than they could have anticipated. The “Spider of Camorr” poses a threat to their thieving ways and a mysterious new “Gray King” may endanger their very lives. Locke’s ingenious mind and stunning disguises won’t be enough in the face of this multitude of attacks–but he’s willing to die trying. 

*******

As always, a good fantasy novel hits the spot for me. The Lies of Locke Lamora contains a fascinating new world with a mysterious ancient race, intriguing forms of magic, and plenty of well-laid mythology and lore to complete the picture. 

Scott Lynch uses this fanciful world and its magic to indirectly examine the values, morals, and struggles of the real world we live in. The loyalty of the “Gentlemen Bastards” to each other, the feminist victory by the Camorr brothels, and the sacrificial heroism of a lying thief all provoke reflection on real-world issues that are far from mere fantasy. 

Lynch’s novel is also filled with all the fun and invention that a good fantasy novel should be. While the concept of a noble thieving crew–one that stands head and shoulders above all the other thieving crews–is surely older than even the story of Robin Hood, Lynch infuses his story with enough novelty and imagination to captivate any fantasy lover. 

The book’s only serious shortcoming is, perhaps, in Lynch’s excess of description. Of course, every good fantasy author creates a vast treasury of worldbuilding detail. The greatest fantasy author of all time, J.R.R. Tolkien, certainly did not hesitate to write page after page of scenery and background minutiae into his stories. 

However, very few authors are as talented as Tolkien, and Lynch’s efforts to cram so much background information into his narrative often come across as awkward and excessive. Lynch inserts information like scene layouts or city politics far too frequently, forcing the reader to slow down and depriving such scenes of momentum. 

The plot itself keeps a consistently exciting pace, however. Each new development pulls the reader further into the Gentlemen Bastards’ dangerous webs of cons and lies, and leaves them craving more. The Lies of Locke Lamora is an absorbing thrill of a read, and an excellent choice for any fantasy aficionado.

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