If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy series which doesn’t take itself too seriously, look no further than Scott Lynch‘s Gentelman Bastard series, starting with The Lies of Locke Lamora.
The first book of the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, published in 2006 follows the life and adventures of the titular character Locke Lamora, and the and the other members of the group of thieves who call themselves the Gentlemen Bastards, though one of their members is actually a woman.
The story takes place in Camorr, a city not unlike Venice, Italy. Camorr was originally inhabited by alien beings who built and left behind incredible buildings and other alien technologies for the humans who would later settle it. The characters use words, names and titles which are Italian or Spanish-sounding, though none of it takes place on Earth as we know it. Though formally ruled by a Duke, a large part of the population of Camorr is informally ruled and governed by a powerful Capa or big boss, who controls all the gangs and thieves of the city. The different thieving groups pay tribute to the Capa, who, in turn, dispenses justice when altercations break out among their kind. The Capa is also responsible for maintaining the “secret peace” between the thieves and the nobles – an understanding that thieves won’t steal from the guards/police/government/nobles, who in turn, will ignore certain underground activities.
Locke Lamora belongs to a unique group of thieves who are trained in every imaginable art and skill to ensure that they can pass themselves off as anyone to fool, and most importantly steal, from the nobles of Camorr. Under the tutelage of Father Chains, a priest of the Order of Perelandro, Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards, twins Calo and Galdo Sanza, Jean Tannen, Sabetha, and later Bug, learn everything from gourmet cooking to serving, to farming, and getting inducted to every single religious group in the city. Most importantly, they are also trained to fight, disguise themselves, plan and scheme on how to cheat, lie, and steal from the upper crust of society, despite the Secret Peace held in place by the Capa. In order to do this, of course, they also deceive the Capa and the other thieves into believing that they are nothing more than a small group of petty thieves living off alms and income from picking pockets.
Locke Lamora, with his wild imagination, devious mind and penchant for mischief is the natural garrista, or leader, of the Gentlemen Bastard, cooking up incredible schemes to relieve the wealthy members of society of a few thousand crowns (the money in Camorr). For the Gentlemen Bastard, stealing is the best part of the game, amassing more wealth than they actually need, and with their most recent scheme in progress – of stealing from a Don and Dona Salavara, their group is set to be a few more thousand crowns richer.
However, the appearance of a mysterious figure calling himself the Gray King, killing off the city’s garristas one by one, wreaking havoc and threatening the stability of the society the Capa worked so hard to create poses a much bigger problem for Locke and his Gentlemen Bastards. Threatened by the seemingly invincible Gray King, Locke Lamora must fight not to lose everything that matters to him, including his life.
The Lies of Locke Lamora hits the ground running, with little preamble on whos, hows and whys. The novel maintains its relatively fast pace throughout, dishing out background information about Locke and the other characters’ adolescent years, training, and education, and historical tidbits about Camorr through short chapters called “interludes” which alternates with the regular chapters of the main plot. As a fantasy novel, it isn’t as hardcore as some – there is nothing extraordinary about its setting and language, and its form of government and society is familiar. The characters, though interesting enough are also, not quite extraordinary or unique, some even vaguely resembling other popular characters in fiction. One character in particular, Locke’s former owner, an old man known as the Thiefmaker who takes in orphans and trains them to be thieves is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ Fagin from Oliver Twist, and even Locke himself resembles the main character of the RPG Assasin’s Creed II, Enzo, a petty thief that roams the streets of medieval Florence, Venice, and eventually Rome, in search of the Borgias to avenge the death of his family.
Compared to other novels in the genre, The Lies of Locke Lamora seems a bit too nice and neat – except for specific events, there isn’t any real violence, and in terms of the elements usually found in fantasy novels, there isn’t much, if any, magic involved. The whole thing seems a bit watered down, a PG version, if you will, of the usual fantasy novel (ok, I’m thinking of Game of Thrones). If anything, The Lies of Locke Lamora is just a good old-fashioned action/adventure story. It isn’t one of the best fantasy books I’ve read, but it’s quite entertaining and good enough to make me want to read the two other books in the series.
(Followed by Red Seas Under Red Skies)
The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006) – Scott Lynch
Del Rey; 719 pages (paperback)
Personal rating: 3.5/5