In this debut novel from Scott Lynch, we follow the trials and tribulations of protagonist Locke Lamora and his band of shameless con artists, the Gentlemen Bastards. The main thread of this story is essentially one of revenge, but there is a lot of story packed into this little novel.
(This section contains SPOILERS. Obviously)
There are two main threads in this novel. The first is Locke Lamora’s biggest scam yet. He has to convince a royal to part with enough gold to sink a cargo ship, while tip toeing around the gangland godfather. Then, we have the Grey King. Now this guy is causing chaos; he’s killing gang leaders like Locke left, right and center. Locke naturally gets caught up in the drama. I often joked to friends during this novel that author Scott Lynch played the 1 to 2 ration. One thing goes right; two things go very wrong. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for anyone invested in the story, but Lynch does a good job of keeping it in hand, so we don’t end up with Days of Our Lives drama.
All the characters in this novel are easy to get attached to (pro-tip: don’t). Locke is the lovable rogue of a main character, and is joined by his little gang, Bug, Jean and the Stanza Twins. The Falconer and the Grey King make antagonists we love to hate, so perfect for propelling the story forward. The biggest tragedy in this novel is that it’s female characters were so few, but those that made an appearance were worth the wait.
Lynch treats time as if it is entirely fluid, and makes no apologies for jumping from Locke’s life as a seven-year-old to his mid-twenties in the space of a paragraph break. We also get pages of backstory, which could be extremely cumbersome and boring world building in most books, but Lynch makes sure early on that these info-dumps are part-foreshadowing, part-world-building and fully engaging.
That’s good, because we know they’re important so we don’t skip them when they really count.
Lynch also created one of the best prologues I’ve seen in recent years. Far too many authors use the prologue to give useless information or a cheap shock from the middle of the book. This wasn’t the case with The Lies of Locke Lamora at all. We have a character introduction that leaves us wanting to know more about this mysterious character, and really sets up the brutality of the fictional world.
As mentioned in structure, the back and forth of this book is a major factor in this book. I found it confusing the first time this happened, as there was no real warning other than a paragraph break. One paragraph Locke was a child, the next he wasn’t. And then he was again. And then you might get a puzzling scene with little to no context, only to get that context in the next paragraph break. It takes a few pages to understand exactly what was happening, but once you get your head around those sudden changes, it actually adds real flair and individuality to the story.
Something that did frustrate me personally was Lynch’s use of “dumb-smart words”. Those are what I call words that people use because they think it makes them sound smart. But they actually sound dumb, at least in my opinion. This, however, is something that wouldn’t bother everyone, and after a few chapters I barely noticed it was happening.
Overall, this was a great fantasy book with brilliant world-building, interesting characters and a unique style that I would recommend to anyone who loves fantasy.