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The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

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Author: Scott Lynch / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 February 2007 / Genre: Fantasy / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora / ISBN 13: 9780575079755 / ISBN 10: 0575079755

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    6 Reviews
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      26.08.2010 13:24
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      Fabulous, albeit with some flaws

      The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book of the Gentleman Bastard sequence, and tells the tale of the titular Locke Lamora (or the Thorn of Camorr) as he tries to pull off a massive con against one of the Dons of Camorr with the help of the gang of Gentleman Bastards. While this is being played out, Locke learns that he is in the middle of a war between the Grey King and Capa Barsavi that has dreadful repercussions for both him personally and the city of Camorr.

      I enjoyed this book. Thoroughly. It was entertaining, good fun and left me with a smile on my face. When I wasn't reading it, I found my thoughts dwelling on it and wondering what events would come next, which I think is the mark of an excellent book.

      Before I start with specific thoughts, likes and dislikes, I just want to make a couple of observations. The first is that, in a mystery novel, I like to try and work out the secret identity of the secret personage who is committing the crime, and try to discover why they might be doing terrible things. In this novel, unless I'm being completely dense, there was no way we could piece together clues to find out who the Grey King was and why he declared war on Capa Barsavi. I think the novel would have been even stronger had the reader been able to play this game.

      The second is that The Lies of Locke Lamora seems to fit more into the canon of literature led by Alexandre Dumas - swash-buckling high adventure - rather than anything from the field of genre fiction. Barring the use of Bondsmages, this novel could easily be set in Renaissance Italy. The term 'unique' is thrown around with abandonment, but, in this case, I would say it is justified - even though I am four years late to the party, The Lies of Locke Lamora feels fresh and new and exciting.

      This is not to say the whole book is perfect. Lynch does a fabulous turn in dialogue - his characters mock each other; cry bloody vengeance without sounding cliched; and have conversations that sound natural. Every part of The Lies of Locke Lamora that involves characters in face to face encounters is pure gold. It is just a shame that, for me, some of the remaining prose sounds a little dry and wooden at times. When Lynch needs to introduce a new part of Camorr, or describe the games commoners play, it is not done smoothly - rather we are handed a section of rather dry exposition that sits uneasily next to the glittering dialogue. This might be a matter of taste, but I found these points clumsy for an author who shows such skills elsewhere.

      I have to mention the language as well. That is, the realistic swearing (i.e. words like f**k etc.). I believe it has probably been pointed out by other reviewers. The fact is, I would probably have complained if Lynch had come up with his own swear words - at that point, I would have been muttering about silly made-up words that sound false. I'm not absolutely sure that Lynch could win on this point either way, but the realistic swear-words jarred me out of my read, which I found a little frustrating. Certainly the swearing 'fit' the characters, since they were from the lower end of the social spectrum, but the choice of words did not 'fit'.

      One of my friends who read The Lies of Locke Lamora and loved it mentioned to me the point of alchemy and how it is employed in the novel - and I find myself agreeing. That is, it seems a 'dialed-in' plot device. At points it was used to nice effect, such as the method of lighting the streets and buildings, and I enjoyed the 'genetics' part of it, where trees were given additional attributes thanks to alchemy. However, at other points, it seemed as though Lynch used it in a slightly deus ex machina fashion - such as during the calamity that Capa Raza tries to inflict on the nobility of Camorr.

      The use of flashbacks in The Lies of Locke Lamora was inspired, and I found myself enjoying the exploits of the younger Locke far more than his older counterpart. I also loved the way that the flashbacks would lend weight to future events - a form of foreshadowing, if you will. It was a clever way of helping to build facts necessary into the plot, without using the tired exposition that Lynch sometimes fell back on. A couple of times I would say that the flashbacks were either unnecessary, or ill-placed - my example here would be where the background to the Bondsmages is introduced. We've already been advised that people *really* don't want to get on the bad side of Bondsmages through some clever dialogue - this section slowed down the overall read and added no depth to the novel.

      In my opinion this is a fabulous novel, with some flaws. It isn't the instant classic some would have had me believe, but it is a cracking piece of storytelling and I envy those who are about to embark on it for the first time.

      This review has been posted to Floor to Ceiling Books

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        20.05.2010 16:32
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        A tale you will not forget in a hurry

        The Lies of Locke Lamora is a book which my brother picked up and after reading it himself started to beg me to read it as well. Originally I was very sceptical as he was raving over it and we have very different tastes in reading material and I wasn't too sure of it at all (he tends to prefer action shoot-outs!). However, after repeated nagging I decided to pick it up if only to shut him the hell up and I was oh so pleasantly surprised!! It wasn't just that I enjoyed the book, I loved the book and I ended up writing so much of it in my quotes book that I might as well have just photocopied the book! Now, I very much doubt I will do the book justice in my review but I will give it my best shot!!!

        ===Plot===
        The novel is based around Locke Lamora and is set both in the past where you are following him as a child learning how to be a thief and in the present where he is an adult. This is a fantasy books and it follows his adventures through Camorr with the group 'The Gentlemen Bastards' as they con every person they can to make their fortune. In Locke's words, the city of Camorr is there because the Gods love crime; 'Pickpockets rob the common folk, merchants rob anyone they can dupe, Capa Barsavi robs the robbers and the common folk, the lesser nobles rob nearly everyone, and the Duke Nicovante occasionally runs off with his army and robs the shit out of Tal Verarr or Jeran, not to mention what he does to his own nobles and his common folk.' It is a city the Gentlemen Bastards can thrive in.

        The story follows Locke who becomes an orphan at an early age and gets taken in by the Thiefmaker who buys all orphan children he takes a fancy to before they are sold as slaves. From page one you know that the Thiefmaker is selling him to Chains, the Eyeless Priest because 'if I can't sell him to you, I'm going to have to slit his throat and throw him in the bay. And I'm going to have to do it tonight.' You very quickly learn that Chains is as much of a conman as the Thiefmaker just better at it, because whilst the Thiefmaker never pretends to be anything but a thief, the Eyeless Priest's whole life is make believe. He isn't blind and he doesn't chain himself to his temple twenty four hours a day, he isn't even a priest of the doctrine he states, the doctrine he is a priest of is a heresy; the Crooked Warden, the God of thieves and malefactors. And Chains is going to teach Locke to be a 'Gentleman Bastard', the best of the best in conmen and one of his group. Otherwise noted as hustlers who can pass in any form of society, speak any number of languages and cook as if for kings.

        The story concerning Locke as an adult follows the same kind of line, except that now he is the head of the Gentleman Bastards and he is the one running the organisation of the scams and plots that they are carrying out on the nobility, whilst pretending to Capa Barsavi that they are only robbing the common folk and therefore only need to pay small amounts of taxes to him. But in addition to this there is the new threat of the Grey King who is threatening the order of Camorr, and killing off the Capa's most loyal thieves. It all gets rather complicated for Locke and there are so many twists and turns in the plot that you wouldn't believe me if I tried to tell you, and you'd kill me for telling you anyway!

        ===Characters===
        There are many different characters throughout the novel but the main sections would be the Gentlemen Bastards, the nobility, and the Capa's people including his family.

        The Gentlemen Bastards (past and present) comprises of Chains, Locke, Jean, the Sanza twins (Calo and Galdo) and Bug. Chains is the original leader and the one who teaches them how to hussle and to behave as if they are members of any class or race. Locke is the main focus through the book, he is the Thorn of Camorr and hates it as the Thorn of Camorr is meant to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor and a ghost that walks through walls. Locke on the other hand can barely use a sword, and although he does steal from the rich this is because nobody else is worth stealing from and the poor never see a penny. Jean is his right hand man, the muscle behind the operation and the one who time after time saves Locke from certain death. The Sanza twins are probably the most loveable rogues ever created by an author and Bug, well Bug is the apprentice, the novice and well, you'll just have to read it.

        "'Bug,' Calo said, 'Locke is our brother and our friend and our love for him has no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are 'Locke would appreciate it'.'
        'Rivalled only by 'Locke taught me a new trick', added Galdo.
        'The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games...'
        '...is Locke Lamora...'
        '...because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons...'
        '...and fifty thousand cheering spectators.'

        The nobility are mainly the people who the Gentlemen bastards are scamming in one form or another but the main ones you meet are the Lorenzo's who are Locke's main targets throughout the story set in the present.

        Capa Barsavi is a genius character as he's kind of the king of the thieves in the area. All of the gangs report to him and he collects a tithe from them according to what money they have managed to steal that month. He took the city by force well before Locke was born and was the one who set up the Secret Peace, ensuring that his thieves will only rob the common folk and that their are no thieves except those under him.

        ===Structure===
        The structure is actually very clever, although nothing particularly special or new in terms of structure or style. It is set out approximately half and half between the present and the past with a chapter of one being followed by a chapter of the other which the occasional page of history thrown in. This style of writing usually massively annoys me because I tend to get easily confused as to which story I'm in at any given moment in time, but somehow Scott Lynch has avoided this and I don't know how if I'm honest. I found myself gripped by both stories and I always knew without fail which story I was in at the time. The only thing that annoyed me at times was the fact that Scott Lynch is far too good at narrative writing and knows exactly when to cut of one story and go back to the other, which meant that I was often left desperate to know what was going to happen next and peeved that it had changed. But equally, I'd soon get completely gripped in the other side of the story and be just as peeved when he changed back!

        ===My Opinion===
        I was enthralled from cover to cover, my excitement even spilled over to my boyfriend who has got so fed up with me yammering on about the excellence of the book that he has agreed to read it! Scott Lynch has got everything right. His character development is perfect, his plot is complex but not too difficult to grasp or to keep hold of even when it is split into two separate stories.

        But more than this, Scott Lynch has the true ability to make you become one with the story, you manage to get so far into the story and so attached to the characters that you actually start to believe in their morals and doubt your own. You live and breathe with the characters, and coming from someone who quite often gets so involved in books that she forgets the real world, this was one which had this particular effect more than any other. You know a book is far too good when you end up questioning your own morals and not for the better.

        This is a book I would more than recommend, if I had the power to do so I would insist and order you to read it, but I can't so I am only left to recommend it. It is a book of conspiracies and lies, and everyone seems to be lying to everyone else but it is clever, witty and so well thought out it is untrue. Some of the things Scott Lynch has managed to think up and some of the twists and plot points that he includes would surprise even the people who are amazingly good at guessing plots. I would not have thought that this was my kind of book until I read it under duress, and now I can't stop singing it's praises. All I can say is, even if you aren't sure, give it a go - it WILL surprise you.

        ===Conclusion===
        I don't think there's much more I can say. Well, actually, I could but it would mean going on for another thousand words and giving away the entire plot and quoting all of my favourite parts. Wait, did I say another thousand words? I could probably do several thousand words! And in the process I would ensure that you would all hate me forever. So I'm probably better quitting while I'm ahead and just stopping now whilst saying that I would massively recommend this book! If you buy it new on Amazon it will cost you £5.99 but second hand you'll find it from just a single penny (plus postage). If you make that investment; and I do suggest that you do, it will probably be the best bargain of the year.

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          23.01.2010 23:31
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          A Must read for all Fantasy lovers out there.

          A Fresh take on the term 'Fantasy' Novel. This book strays from the pack a little in the way that it does not depict the same old 'Good vs Evil' with some story twist, which just happens to leave the main character on top. It is a new and exciting look into how the Fantasy novel can be written and exploited in some cases.
          The Book is set around Locke Lamora, a young man and his band of thieves names 'The Gentleman Bastards', and tells the story of their many ingenious escapades into lightening the pockets of the rich in some truly extravagant and ingenious ways.
          The book is full of untamed wit and endless amounts of quirky and humerous comments, making the reader want to read on just for another page or three.
          It is a must read for those Fantasy lovers who fancy something a little bit different, whilst maintaining the status of being an enjoyable read.

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          17.09.2009 16:47
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          If you like fantasy novels you have to read this

          This novel is the first by Scott Lynch and is also the fist in this 7 book series. It has lots of side plots and twists so I will try to briefly describe it without giving anyhting away.

          It tells the tale of a young boy called Locke Lamora that is coached in the art of thievery but the Thiefmaker. However it soon becomes apparent that Locke has more than just a natural flair for this line of work. His schemes are extravagant, unusual and ambitious beyond belief.

          He and a team of other young boys, Jean, Caldo and Galdo are coached to be the best of the best, The Gentleman Bastards. Their marks are carefully scoped and a series of elaborate cons are performed which incidentally break the Secret Peace between the Capas and Dukes of Camorr.

          Unfortunately certain figures catch onto these antics and soon they are trapped in a game of deadly vengeance and power struggles.
          This novel captures you completely into its world of thieves and nobility that balances very precariously from descending into total chaos due to certain strongholds of power. There is an abundance of magic, alchemy and brutality.

          Locke is an appealing protagonist who can disguise and portray himself as almost anyone and his rare talents lead him into endless troubles. Despite his growing ego he has a strange sense honour when it comes to his close friends and comrades.

          This novel is extremely fun to read despite having some very grave moments, it is not a faint hearted fantasy but a tale thoroughly embroiled in danger and death.

          An absolutely amazing read!

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          11.01.2009 20:43
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          Dark and wonderfully well written fantasy

          If you're ever see the excellent TV series 'Hustle' then I might begin to describe this book by saying that the main plot consists of a similar series of twists and turns through a world of trickery and conmen, who work for the game rather than for the money and choose their victims for the challenge of the chase.

          However, there the similarity ends and the world of Locke Lamora and his 'Gentlemen Bastards' swiftly reveals itself to be a sophisticated creation by an amazingly talented new writer.

          I don't really want to say to much about the actual plot of the book as it would be easy to give too much away but I will say that I can't recommend this book highly enough, though it is perhaps a little dark in places (there is some violence which may bother the squeamish reader).

          It's the kind of book that has you hooked from page one, an up-all-night page-turner that make you forget silly little things like eating and sleeping while you are reading it! If you like new, original, well written fantasy (fans of Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin, I'm talking to you!) you'll like this...

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          08.10.2008 21:17
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          Though it starts off like Oliver Twist it is a lot cleverer (sorry Mr Dickens)

          Scott Lynch has written a book with many different sub plots containing characters with multiple alter-egos. This book should be incredibly difficult to understand and too clever for its own good. But it isn't, it is so well written that even the names don't get confusing.

          ~ Plot Outline ~

          I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot as the beauty of this book is that you never know what happens next and I doubt anyone would guess all the crazy schemes that Locke thinks of. I have no intention of ruining this book for anyone but I will give a basic outline of what the book is about.

          There are two main stories going on in this book and while I often find two concurrent stories annoying that wasn't the case in this book because both were as interesting as each other.

          The first is set in the past and follows the orphan, Locke Lamora, as he gets taken in by the Thiefmaker (a little bit Oliver Twist here) and then following something awul that he did, which we find out later, is sold on to Old Father Chains. Father Chains is a blind priest of Perelandro to the world but behind closed doors he is a con artist with no visual impairment whose time is spent training Locke and three other boys Calo, Galdo and Jean to become false facers. This part of the story shows the early days of these thieves and how they came to get their skills and their schemes and how the relationships develop between these four boys.

          The second story is set in the present after the death of Father Chains. Locke, Calo, Galdo, Jean and their new recruit, Bug, are involved in a "game" to relieve one of the local Nobility "Don Salvara" of a large proportion of his wealth through a false business deal. The ploy which starts off very well quickly becomes extremely complicated and the boys find themselves involved in a war between the gang leader "Capa Barsavi" and the illusive "Grey King" as well as doing a very good job of pissing off a very powerful Bondsmage.

          ~ The Characters ~

          LOCKE LAMORA is the newest recruit to Father Chains gang of theives, known as "The Gentlemen Bastards" but quickly becomes the leader due to his ability to quickly think up fantastic plans for stealing from the rich or for getting out of difficult situations. When he arrives he is a bit arrogantbut that is quickly knocked out of him. Locke is of a very slight build and is rubbish at fighting but he uses his brain to avoid conflict where possible but most often to get out of a bad situation with his life. Most importantly Locke is a brilliant actor able to take on any accent and invent characters at will allowing him to fool almost anyone.

          CALO and GALDO SANZA are twins who cannot be told apart. They are the oldest members of the group and are great teases, enjoying being superior to Locke until the need for his brain power arises. The Sanza twins are the entertainers and are also great actors. They excel in dressing and making up people to give them totally different appearances. They are also pretty good fighters although not as strong as Jean.

          JEAN TANNEN arrives a while after Locke after the sudden death of his merchant father and mother. He at first seems soft, with his posh voice and his stunning ability with maths but it turns out that he has a great deal of anger in him and with training becomes a top class fighter. He is never seen without his pair of hatchets known as "the wicked sisters" and is the muscles of the group though of course he too is a great actor.


          I really enjoyed this book and have read it several times. Despite the protagonist of the book being a theif and a con artist you cannot help liking Locke and wanting him to get away with all his crazy schemes. I would love to know what anyone who had actually been the victim of a scam thinks of this book but with the amount of work that Locke and his friends put into thier cons you almost feel they deserve to win.

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