One of the reasons why I love reading fiction is the chance that every once in a while, taking a chance on a new author pays off handsomely. I don’t know much about the author, Scott Lynch, other than his Goodreads bio. What I do know is that I am thoroughly impressed with his skills at world building, character building and dialogue– not bad for a young writer writing a first novel. Not bad at all!
The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place on a planet “someplace” that was colonized by humans at some point in the past. The humans displaced (?) or perhaps inherited the planet from the now vanished Elder race that once inhabited it and have left durable artifacts that the humans make use of, particularly made of “Elder glass”, a durable material of surpassing beauty.
The novel is split between two interweaving narratives, one playing out in the past and one in the present. The past narrative develops the history of the titular character Locke, from child thief, to religious acolyte, to grown sharper and confidence man. In the present time, Locke Lamora is running an elaborate confidence game against one of the landed gentry of Comorr, the city where most of the novel takes place. His life is made complicated by competing gang bosses, a mysterious “Gray King” cutting into the action, and the presence of a mysterious “Bond Mage” called the Falconer.
I won’t spoil the plot, but suffice to say there’s a lot of violence and retribution, hidden roles revealed, and blood spilt. The plot is written well, but I found myself rooting for the protagonists and even feeling sorry for the antagonist(s). Their motivations are all reasonably well explained, except, possibly, the driving force behind the generosity of Chains, the benefactor and trainer of the Gentleman Bastards gang. Why is he so interested in creating a gang of confidence men out of a pack of beggar boys? It’s hard to fathom. I did enjoy reading the back stories and asides from the many characters, great and small in this novel. A sign of a good writer is the ability to make us care about even the smallest character, and Lynch does a passing good job at fleshing out people– I was genuinely pissed at him for killing off a couple of my favorite characters towards the end (I won’t say whom), as I had grown attached to them.
In any event, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a great first novel and a great introduction into the wider world of the Gentleman Bastards. I plan on reading the sequel and sincerely wish Mr. Lynch every success in writing more novels set in this world, with these characters. A very pleasant discovery that I don’t hesitate to recommend.