The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentelman Bastard 1) by Scott Lynch

Posted: February 8, 2013 by Arushi in Book Review
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It feels like forever since I did a book review. I refuse to check how long it really has been. Regardless, this is a good book to return with.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. In fact it is Scott Lynch’s debut novel, but there is nothing in this book that makes you think, debut, but rather everything about it screams of excellent craftsmanship. It is set in a world that is not our own. For me it lies somewhere between dark fantasy and epic fantasy with dashes of sci-fi thrown in. The other genres included are crime and adventure.

The number of genres should give a fair idea of just how encompassing this book really is. It is set in a complex civilization almost completely unlike our own, with absolute rules and protocols regarding everything: royalty, nobility, merchants, guilds and even thieves. This civilization is built upon the ruins of another whose creations are still incomprehensible. The city of Camorr where the events of the novel take place, is an interconnected network of islands. This makes some situations very interesting as almost all of these waters are shark infested.

Take for example, the description of how entrenched into the Camorri culture revenge truly is: for me it comes out most clearly through an anecdote of an annual ball game. Out of two best friends, one plays on one of the teams and the other is the judge. The judge says it was not a goal and his friend’s team (the team of the island of Cauldron where they both lived) loses. The judge and his family are basically exiled and move to another city.

He comes back decades later, hoping to reconcile and sees and old man on the docks. He is astonished that this is his friend and wonders if he is still remembered.

“Markos,” he cried. “Markos, from the Cauldron! Markos! The gods are kind! Surely you remember me?”

Markos turned to regard the traveler who stood before him; he stared for a few seconds. Then, without warning, he drew a long-bladed fisherman’s knife from his belt and buried it, up to the hilt, in Gervain’s stomach. As Gervain stared downward in shock, Markos gave him a shove sideways, and the former handball Justice fell into the water of Camorr Bay, never to surface again.

“Not across the line, my ass,” Markos spat.

Verrari, Karthani, and Lashani nod knowingly when they hear this story. They assume it to be apocryphal, but it confirms something they claim to know in their hearts—that Camorri are all gods-damned crazy.

Camorri, on the other hand, regard it as a valuable reminder against procrastinating in matters of revenge—or, if one cannot take satisfaction immediately, on the virtue of having a long memory.

This anecdote and those of its ilk, give not only a good idea of the rich culture of this world but also give a flavor to the events. Would it not be easy for a reader to relate to crazy acts done in the name of revenge by Camorri after hearing this story? Stories like this, bring the world and its culture alive. The writing is just so good that even the most alien of concepts become so real as if they are happening right in front of the reader.

Map of the island city of Camorr

Locke Lamora is the leader (the garrista) of the Gentlemen Bastards, a small group of con-men. The book starts with how he was sold to Father Chains, a blind priest (who is not blind and the priest part is debatable) who teaches him and a select few other orphans how to be perfect con-men to the nobility. The others are the twins: Calo and Galdo Sanza, Jean Tannen and Sabetha (who does not make an appearance). Bug is a 12-year old boy that the Gentlemen Bastards have taken in and are tutoring in the present. Their headquarters is the Temple of Perelandro, the God of the Forgotten, while in truth they worship the Thirteenth God, the Crooked Warden of thieves and rogues.

All throughout the book, we see how Locke and the others grew up under Chains’ tutelage as well as the current events as they are unfolding. The two timelines are interlinked beautifully with events constantly relating to each other, and woven together seamlessly into this are descriptions of the world.

The Gentlemen Bastards are brothers and their loyalty to each other is astounding, especially considering how they are completely amoral.  The Sanza twins bring comedy, with their tricks, including a reputation that makes people draw weapons when they offer to play cards. Jean, the bruiser of the group, known for brutal efficiency with our without his twin weapons, usually has his nose buried in a romance. Bug is enthusiastic, chipper and tries to give back as good as he gets to the four men raising him. Nobody truly expects what Locke what would do next, not even Locke, but you do learn to anticipate madness executed with brilliant flair. Locke has no qualms, not about anything and his only concern is related to victory and to taking care of his pezon, his gang.

The story involves several parallel plotlines, a coup against the head of all the criminals in the city (Capa Barsavi) by a man no one knows (Gray King); Locke’s elaborate scheme of robbing a Don and Dona of Camorr; the training that the Gentleman Bastards underwent in the past; the tests that Chains put them through and how it all links to the present. In the end it all comes together so well, that I was mesmerized.

I can talk on and on about the world building and character development but at the end of the day, I do have to finish this review. The truth of the matter is, this is a book to be savored, enjoyed; it has the feel of an epic, the colorful language of a sailor and the absolute genius of an excellent story-teller behind it.

The next book in the series is Red Seas Under Red Skies and yes, I immediately started it after finishing this one. Maybe when I review it I will be able to talk about more than the world. Right now I am still in love.

This is a must read for anyone who likes fantasy, or crime, or adventure or dark fantasy. You get the idea.

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