Where I got it: Excited about the release of Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves, the third book in his Gentlemen Bastards series? So are folks at Gollancz, who graciously provided me with a review copy.
‘His name is Locke Lamora, and I wager the Order of Perelandro will find many uses for his, ahhhh, unusual degree of personal initiative.’ With these words, young Locke Lamora is sold, nay, almost given away by the Thiefmaker of Camorr to Father Chains, head of the gang called the Gentlemen Bastards. What the Thiefmaker means by ‘degree of personal initiative’ is that Locke is so obsessed with stealing that he, simply, ‘steals too much’. In Camorr, city rife with corruption, everyone steals, so it takes some special talent to stand out. Locke stands out (but obviously not enough to get caught) by breaking rules. He breaks rules as soon as lands in the hands of the Thiefmaker. Lamora calls himself the ‘secret tax’: he takes from the rich and violates agreements between Camorr nobility and Camorr underworld right and left.
And yet Locke is not the most interesting character in The Lies. He is not even all that charismatic. But perhaps this is intentional. Were he too colorful, he wouldn’t have survived long as a con man and a thief. It’s the people around him who add real color and character to the story. Jean, with a pair of axes he calls the Wicked Sisters. Bug, a young thief apprentice, who bravely jumps into a pile of ‘brown glop’ to save a con game from being blown by the city watch. Women gladiators who battle jumping sharks (yes, even minor characters occasionally seem more interesting than Locke).
The city of Camorr is loosely based on medieval Venice. At times descriptions of scenery makes it seem like you are in a very well-rendered video game (think Skyrim), and that’s probably the reason it also reminded me of Sigil, the city in Planescape: Torment. It has its unique elements – the Teeth Show, Elderglass, Gentled animals (and world-building is always in the details, so the city is not as generic as it seems at first glance).
I have to be honest and say that The Lies is by no means original. Stories of con tricks and heists are a dime a dozen. People use words like ‘rollicking adventure’ to describe books like this. It is absolutely ridiculous at times. Characters engage in over-the-top witty banter. Improbable heists are schemed and characters narrowly escape certain death. Every chapter ends in cliffhanger (Lynch does this in a very George R. R. Martinesque manner and, surprise, the book has a blurb by Martin himself on the cover!). But there is a reason this sub-genre is alive and well, and that is because such stories are pure and absolute fun. Sometimes you just need a rollicking adventure. Sometimes you need to read about things you would never do in real life (I doubt that conning rich dukes into buying fake brandy is high on most people’s bucket lists). I enjoy the wit, the unlikely dialogue, the seemingly impossible cons. Being a speculative fiction junkie, I also enjoy the supernatural elements and the fantasy world. I give The Lies of Locke Lamora five out of five sharp throwing axes.