Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: high fantasy.
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…
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.
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.
And don’t forget – our reviews for Red Seas and The Republic go live on February 15 and March 30, respectively.
Have 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! :)