The lies of Locke Lamora review

The lies of Locke Lamora review

The Lies of Locke Lamora: This fantasy novel by Scott Lynch lures you in with its decadent descriptions… then hurls you headlong into magical murderous madness. Sound appetizing?

Buy on Amazon: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gollancz S.F.)

The story is set in a fictional world where, thousands of years ago, creatures known only as the Elders wrought towers and bridges out of a strange, indestructible glass. They passed away, an empire rose and fall, and now the people are living – well, as best as they can. The rich get rich and the poor get poor – unless you’re Locke Lamora.

Lamora is fabulously wealthy. Think Count of Monte Cristo wealthy – except unlike the Count, no one beyond his very personal circle realizes that Locke has two solari to rub together – much less two hundred thousand. Interspersed throughout the novel are flashbacks explaining how Lamora grew from a destitute orphan to a master thief known as the Thorn of Cammor. The citizens of Cammor, a city-state similar to our world’s Venice, have the idea that the Thorn is some sort of swashbuckling Hero. Lamora lets them think that, but knows full well he’s no sort of sword-wielding hero. When the plot thickens, his first plan of attack is… to run away. He can neatly slit a throat, but relies heavily on his much stronger associate, Jean.

Together, Locke – the garrista (leader) – Jean, twins Calo and Galdo, and their apprentice, Bug, are the Gentleman Bastards. (Another character, the mysterious love interest Sabetha, is also supposedly part of their gang, but very little is revealed about her.) These Gentlemen are preparing to play what should be their simplest and most profitable confidence game yet, when a person known only as the Gray King begins intruding on the criminal community of Camorr. This wouldn’t be a problem for Locke, if the Gray King didn’t ‘convince’ Locke to impersonate him at a meeting with the head of Camorr’s underworld. Like a twisted dream, things go from bad to worse to… very worse. Do they get better? Well – sort of. But this is the first in a seven-book sequence so suffice to say that the conclusion isn’t totally conclusive.

Fascinating plot aside, what I liked most about The Lies of Locke Lamora was the believability. The culture of Camorr is strongly built through scattered ‘historical’ stories, which set up an excellent suspension of disbelief. The characters, too, are exceptionally realistic. Locke Lamora, unlike many main characters, is not handsome. He’s not hideous, either. He just has the sort of face that is, well, normal. And while all the characters have lost parents and experienced hardship, they’ve gone through five stages of grieving and are, more or less, mentally stable. There’s no monomania for revenge to be found here.

Though the technology (largely ‘alchemical’ and steampunk-styled) is antique, and nobility exists, several facets of Locke’s society are refreshingly modern. Men and women are equal, and this is treated as normal. Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bi are also accepted without a second thought. Additionally, the author Scott Lynch does something I have yet to encounter. Though his characters’ speech is peppered with phrases and metaphors singular to their world, their vocabulary of swearwords is identical to that which we ourselves use. This, I found, was much more effective than using fictional profanity. (It also gives the book reason to be filed under ‘adult fiction’ at bookstores and libraries.)

Having mentioned Mr. Lynch, a brief bit about him would be in order. He seems to be nearly as interesting as his characters, having worked as a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, web designer, office manager, prep cook, video game designer and volunteer firefighter. Now a well-received writer, Scott Lynch will soon have a chance to shine in the film industry; Warner Brothers bought the rights to The Lies of Locke Lamora shortly after it was published in 2006. The film is expected to be released sometime in 2011.

No date is as of yet set for the release of the third novel, The Republic of the Thieves, (though excerpts are available at but second novel, Red Seas under Red Skies, was published in 2007. I shan’t say too much for fear of spoiling the first novel, but suffice to say that it contains lots of pirates and lots of kittens – and just as much false-facing, intrigue and adventure as The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Buy on Amazon: The Lies of Locke Lamora