by Scott Lynch
Gentlemen Bastards sequence; book I
The moment I saw the summary for this book months and months ago, I wanted to read it. Wait, scratch that. The moment I saw it described as Robin Hood meets Ocean's Eleven, I needed to read it. Patrick Rothfuss' glowing recommendations certainly helped, too, especially since I am quite unfamiliar with the genre and the gems within it.
The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.
Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke's gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves. The Gentleman Bastards.
The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they have ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive...
First, let me tell you, it's not really Robin Hood nor Ocean's Eleven.
But that's okay. Because it's freaking awesome.
There's two stories to pay attention to, the first is the present-day, where Locke and his gang of Gentlemen Bastards are about to pull off a con. And then the second, where you learn about how Locke got to where he is today. If I had one critique, it'd be how the beginning is pretty slow and it was hard to grasp what was really going on without itching to get to the exciting bits, but it's okay, just power through and you'll be dandy. Oh, and sometimes the pacing gets a little muddled and the descriptions a bit too much, but it's not too overwhelming.
In terms of writing, The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a breathless, fast-paced action book, but it's written in a style that makes you appreciate each sentence, should you choose to pay that much attention. Sometimes my brain stumbles ahead and just the general idea of a sentence will register, but Lynch is a talented writer who will reward those who read carefully, not by dropping hints but by employing lovely turns of phrase. I feel this isn't exactly out of place in most fantasy novels, but it is a welcomed change of pace, especially since it enhances the world-building ten-fold.
Which brings me to the world-building, and it is marvellous. Inspired by the renaissance era, Lynch has masterfully plopped readers into a setting that's endlessly entrancing, from the architecture to the unique set-up of the canals and the towers (again, rewarding careful readers*). I loved the descriptions of food, clothing, weapons, societal hierarchies, currency (I have a fondness of fantastical currency, I think), dukes, religion, and history.
And then of course, we have these wicked, witty, and loveable characters. Locke Lamora is kind of like Tony Stark, and pushes all the right buttons for me. He's too clever and too cocky for his own good, and that gets him into a boatload of trouble. But gosh, I adored these characters, and gosh, Lynch sometimes rips your heart out. I did not see that coming**.
I underestimated this book. I thought it would be in the same vein as The Name of the Wind, and it's not-- not really (well, if you try hard enough, you'll find some parallels). It stands its own, and it's exciting, has great twists, great stakes, crafts an immersive world and has a stunningly charismatic main character that you'll want to stick around to watch.
Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: Fans of The Name of the Wind, those looking for an awesome fantasy book that feels a bit YA-ish but also has some adult crossover
*I myself may not have fully absorbed the awesomeness, but I did recognize it as awesome when it was floating through my brain.
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