The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
Published in 2006 by Gollanz.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: high fantasy.

My rating:

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through the walls.

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves: The Gentlemen Bastards.

The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they’ve ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive…

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I am thrilled to review this book today for several reasons (let’s make a list, shall we?):

  • The Bastard Read-along is the first read-along I’ve ever participated in, let alone organised – and I hope some of you will link your reviews in the comments and I’ll make sure they end up nice and visible somewhere in this post – and in the master post as well. DJ’s post will be up in a couple of weeks, so I’ll add it then.
  • I’m translating this book into Slovenian starting with May, I think, because I have to re-read both Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves before I start and I have some other exciting work to get to first. But seriously, THIS IS THE BEST JOB EVER.
  • Even after my third re-read, this is one of my favourite books of EVER. Seriously. If you haven’t read it yet, this is a serious suggestion that you should rethink your life decisions (kidding, but I will never stop recommending it).

And why, you might ask, am I so enamoured of this book?

Well, first of all, there’s Locke Lamora. I know many people prefer Jean Tannen to Locke (since he’s a huge softie and a really, really good friend), but Locke stole my heart and is probably my favourite character of all time (along with Elizabeth Bennet and Kvothe – and possibly Bilbo Baggins). His character is really questionable – he’s a thief and a cheat and a masterful liar, but he’s flawed, too, not at all a perfect human being. Does Lynch romanticise the life of thieves in a cut-throat city like Camorr? Of course. But I just love his razor-sharp wit, his crazy, daring schemes, and his excellent talent for cursing. (“Nice bird, arsehole.” might be my favourite line of the book – but it’s a nightmare to translate, I can tell you that.)

Then there are all the other characters, amazingly well-fleshed-out: the Gentlemen Bastards, the rest of the Camorri underworld and the nobility, too. Jean, Calo, Galdo and Bug are Locke’s best friends – brothers, really – and their relationship, while peppered with insults, is solid. The whole social hierarchy of the gangs and their Capa (the don of the mafia, is what you’d call him, I think?) and the nobles and their Secret Peace is unbelievably complex and explained with impeccable precision and humour. I’ve heard complaints that this book has a shortage of women – while that might be true in the sense that the main characters are all male (there is a female Gentleman Bastard but she’s away and we don’t get to meet her until later in the series), I also think that Lynch did a good job with side characters – Nazca, Doña Vorchenza, Doña Sofia – they’re all interesting and powerful women.

This book is pretty epic in scope – both with characters and with the setting. It’s true that the whole of the first book takes place in Camorr, a city vaguely reminiscent of medieval Venice, but the mythology, the history, the neighbouring cities (city states) – it’s just amazing. I’m especially curious about the mysterious Eldren, who disappeared without a trace but left behind the magnificent structures of elderglass, a stone-like substance that humans have never learned to work. I hope we’ll get more info about them in later books.

Now, I may have read this book twice before but this time, I read it with translation in mind. I don’t often talk about this part of my life here on the blog but when a translator works on a text, she takes it apart at its most basic level – the language – and rebuilds the story in another language. This is why I was struck, even more than before, with the brilliance of Lynch’s prose. His style is pretty dense, the dialogues are sometimes polished to the point of over-abundance (but it all makes sense when the characters are who they are) and the world-building alone brings along such a wealth of new expressions that I am in awe – and scared witless because I can only hope that I will do the book justice in Slovenian.

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So. I am really happy I got to merge my blog with my work for once and review this book here. I am looking forward to re-reading Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves (both of which I’ve only read once) in anticipation of the publication of The Thorn of Emberlain (it’s scheduled to hit the shelves in July 2016).

If you reviewed The Lies of Locke Lamora, please don’t hesitate to leave your link in the comments! At the same time, I’d like to remind you all that this is A SPOILER FREE ZONE and that you should probably indicate if your review contains spoilers. Also, if you’ve already finished all the published books, don’t spoil the fun for others who are only just beginning to enjoy Lynch’s masterpieces – I know that nobody would do this on purpose but accidents do happen.

Other reviews: Nicole (@ Feed Your Fiction Addiction) and DJ (@ MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

And don’t forget – our reviews for Red Seas and The Republic go live on February 15 and March 30, respectively.

zmaj-desnoHave you read The Lies of Locke Lamora? What did you think?

Do you prefer your heroes on the right side of the law? Or do you like them a bit crooked?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I love this series SO MUCH. I love the social hierarchy too. Especially because it seems like the GB are just a low thieving gang, but in reality they are so intricate no one even knows how brilliant they are. It’s insane. Scott Lynch has created such a unique and captivating series. I can’t wait for Thorn of Emberlain! Oh, I definitely like my heroes a bit crooked. It makes for a lot more fun.

    • Haha YESS I love how they pretend to be simple thieves, when they pay tribute and Capa Barsavi is all: “You are a man who’s not ashamed to confess that some weeks, the haul isn’t as good.” And Locke actually keeps a straight face. :D
      And yeah, I completely agree – crooked is way more fun! ;)

  • Whoa, clearly I need to read this! Also, I love that you also love Elizabeth Bennet. She is a super special character isn’t she?

    • Yep, Elizabeth is my favourite female character for sure. Okay, she maybe ties with Hermione Granger? :) Pride and Prejudice is probably the book I re-read the most apart from the HP series and The Hobbit. In fact, I haven’t read it for a while so I’m due for a re-read soon. :)

  • I was hoping to join you in this readalong because I still NEED to read this series *hides* but there’s just too much to do book/review/blog-wise for me atm o.O However, I vow that 2016 WILL BE the year I read this one! It’s on my bedside table so that means it’s for real LOL! I LOVE the sound of this one, shades of grey heroes just make my life :D Thanks for motivating me to get to this one ASAP Kaja ♥

    • Well this is a good reading resolution! :) I think you’ll like Locke and his crew, I know you like epic fantasy and if you already have the book, that makes it easier. I know it’s hard to keep up with the reviews, though, I don’t even receive that many ARCs and I always manage to fall behind somehow…

  • Maraia

    I’m all for romanticizing the CLEVER thief life. XD

    I’ve read that criticism about a lack of women, too, but honestly it’s not something I noticed while reading the book.

    The first book is still my favorite, in part because of the awesome setting. :D

    • Ah, yes, the clever thief – that’s definitely a good distinction to make. :)

      I know, I didn’t notice it the first (or second) time around, either, I just read a review pointing out that none of the main characters were women and that it barely passed the Bechdel test. Eh. I think he more than makes up for this lack in the sequels, though!

      Yeah, Camorr is probably my favourite, too. Though I do love pirates (I hate boats in real life, I get sea sick INSTANTLY, but I like the IDEA of boats, if that makes sense)! :)

      • Maraia

        **SPOILERS** Hmm, I don’t know if I agree that he makes up for it. Maybe it’s just because my memory of the books is so poor, but I only remember Jean’s love interest, who dies, and Sabatha, who I really disliked. Apparently Scott Lynch wrote the third book while going through a nasty divorce, which explains a LOT.

        Yes, I love the idea of pirates, too. The reality, not so much. XD

        • **SPOILERS** Ah, you disliked Sabetha? Really? :) I liked that she kicked Locke’s ass, he needs someone to take him down a few notches sometimes. I wonder if we’ll see her in book 4. I hope so.
          There’s Jean’s love interest, that’s true, but there’s also the pirate captain, Zamira Drakasha (or something), the 40-something single mom? :) I liked her.

          • Maraia

            I don’t know if my opinion would change if I read it again (I read it 2 years ago at Christmas, and I was half asleep the whole time, haha), but from what I remember, no, I didn’t. I think it was almost more that I didn’t like how Locke acted around her, and that ruined to some extent the reason for liking the series if the first place, if that makes sense?

            Ah, I completely forgot about Zamira! I have zero memory of her, oops. XD

  • I haven’t read this, but it’s one of those books I’ve been kind of on-the-fence considering for a while. Your love for the main character and your descriptions of the close relationship between the friends, plus the fact that it has morally gray characters, makes me feel like I do want to read it. But it seems so intimidating! Especially with the epic setting and history and all that that you described. I’m still undecided :-/ Good luck with the translating though!

    • Hmm… I think it’s much less intimidating than, say Patrick Rothfuss’s series or Brandon Sanderson’s or Robert Jordan’s or even George Martin’s – mostly because he doesn’t take himself as seriously and I genuinely LAUGHED when I was reading it because his characters are amazing. He’s a master at writing dialogue!
      I saw reviews saying that they felt the book was pretty heavy on descriptions, yeah, definitely more than YA books or paranormal romances or urban fantasy but I didn’t find it overwhelming and it just made the setting more vivid.
      I’d still recommend it to you. :)

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  • Nicole Hewitt

    I joined in! Here’s a link to my review. Thanks so much for hosting this and allowing me to join you for the ride!!

    • Thanks for joining us, Nicole! This is my first time hosting pretty much anything that involves more than one other person, so I’m super glad you participated and reviewed the book!

  • How exciting that you are getting to translate this!!! I can just imagine what a challenge it might be. I love this book and its characters very much as well – Lynch does such a good job 1) writing characters and 2) bringing the snappy snarky writing.

  • 0_0 I apparently need to be reading this book! It’s been on my To-Read list for a while now and I never knew the amazingness that was waiting more me! For the most part, all the heroes I read are crooked. Breaking the rules is always more interesting plot-wise! Thanks for the amazing review!

    • Well, I hope you like it! :) The whole series is a massive undertaking (7 books – and the 4th is only coming out in July) but I think it’s well worth it.

  • How exciting that you are doing a translation of this book! I can imagine it’s going to be a challenge as Scott Lynch definitely has a special way with words and wit so it should be fun to translate all the witty repartee in particular. I love this book! I haven’t yet read Republic of thieves but definitely plan to get on that this year.

    • Well if you can, join our re-read – the reviews for Republic go live on March 30! We’d love to have you.

  • Lynch’s prose is among the best I’ve ever read, and he has a vocabulary that I can only dream of — as I was reading the story, and loving and admiring how, as you put it, “dense” Lynch’s prose is, I was wondering how much of challenge it would be for you translate his style into Slovenian?

    His writing style is very unique, so I imagine that may present some difficulty, but what I was really wondering specifically about was his vocab; I swear, he never used the same adjective twice Lol

    About the story though: I can see how Jean can be people’s favorite, but Locke was my favorite too! Unlike any other character I’ve ever read. And I was absolutely OBSESSED with the elderglass! If/When this series gets made into a show or movie or whatever, I cannot wait to see what it looks like. I only hope they are able to do it justice with the way Lynch describes it.

    • I am SO GLAD you loved this! And yeah … don’t even get me started. Translating this will be both exhilarating and incredibly difficult. I’m scared as hell, to tell you the truth, and I keep wondering how I’ll manage, but I’ll have to go at it one word at the time, like always! :)

      Haha, yeah, he’s amazing – but the worst are the made up words (like “the Eldren” or “Elderglass”), because English works really well with these kinds of stacked-together words, while Slovenian just doesn’t work that way. It’ll be a challenge, that’s for sure.

      GAH YES for the series/movie! I’m always anxious when a book gets turned into a show or a movie but here … I don’t even know who I’d cast as the main characters! I saw Tom Hiddleston as being a fan favourite for Locke but I just don’t think he’d fit…