I’m a massive lover of fantasy, but it’s a genre I never make as much time for as I would actually like to. I think a large part of this is down to the fact that most fantasy books are part of a larger series and quite often I don’t want to invest my time in multiple series or pick up a really chunky book. It’s a shame because it is a genre I get a lot of pure enjoyment out of reading and something I need to make more of an effort to do. When I recently found myself with no current series on the go, I decided to pick up a book that has been waiting on my shelves for a pretty long time!
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the first in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence and is a book that originally came to my attention after getting rave reviews on BookTube. There’s actually also a quote from George R. R. Martin on the front describing the book as a ‘fresh, original and engrossing tale’, so high praise indeed!
The book itself focuses upon the central character of Locke Lamora who is known by most as the mysterious Thorn of Camorr. Described as ‘an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls’, the true reality of Locke is somewhat different. He’s a slip of a man who does indeed steal from the rich – but only because they are the only ones with enough money to tempt him – and his takings are never given to the poor. Locke’s gains are kept strictly for himself and his band of thieves – The Gentleman Bastards. When the Bastards embark on a new scheme to rob one of the wealthier citizens of a considerable percentage of his fortune, spirits are high, but as events begin to play out the group realise there is another force at work, one which will destroy anyone and everything which gets in the way.
One of the things which I think its important to note from the start of this review is that this is very much high fantasy with regards to its incredibly detailed setting and surrounding world building. It’s not a book that you can read fifty pages of and have a complete picture of where you are and what’s going on; this is very much a book that rewards you by reading on and takes it time in divulging its inner workings. In many ways this reminded me of the A Song of Ice and Fire series; there are complex place names, hierarchies and lengthy histories to contend with which many people (myself included) are going to struggle with as they try to figure it all out and make the connections in their head. I personally thought it was well worth the effort and that having this level of detail is what makes the world so rich and lets the rest of the book really develop on its own.
I also think that the narrative structure of this book was another aspect which could potentially alienate readers but is really worth sticking with in the long run. We have our normal current time line which primarily focuses upon Locke and the Gentleman Bastards, but we also have these interludes which hark back to the past. These past moments show us how Locke came to be in his current position and really fills out the current linear timelines with this added layer of history. This allows us to connect to Locke on a much greater level than if we had just been given this self-proclaimed thief and expected to rally behind him. Within these flashbacks to the past we can build this rapport with Locke and understand from a different angle what makes him tick and whats made him the man he is today.
Just as you would hope from any fantasy, this one has multiple layers of plot with different levels of twists and turns to maintain an aspect of suspense and surprise. Whilst there is a fairly faced paced plot within this, I do think this book is more of a concentration upon its characters and the society we find ourselves within, all of which has build upon the world building the author has achieved. In many respects it’s reminded me somewhat of a Robin Hobb novel with that slightly slower pace, although I do think this is darker and more confusing series to undertake at first glance. Following on from this idea of darkness, I will say that the author is not afraid to take us to quite brutal and bloody places at times, and it does have a quite grisly tone in many places. I personally don’t find this kind of approach problematic and actually really enjoyed the atmosphere it added to the book, keeping readers on their toes as to what might happen next.
I can see why some people may find this book a bit more of a challenging read at first, but I do really think this is a book which rewards your commitment. It is complex and confusing at the start but if you stick with it the plot and characters really do come to life and create and incredible rich and unique world that you can really get lost in. The depths within this novel are almost untouchable, and having finished the first book in the series I still feel like there is so much I am excited to explore in the rest of the series. If you’re a lover of highly detailed fantasies and world building, please give this one a go!
Not afrais to take us to the dark placed