This month’s OTD post will focus on Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” which is the first of the “Gentleman Bastard Sequence”. It’s a novel that follows the main character, Locke Lamora, who alongside his best friend, Jean Tannen, get caught up in a caper-like story that they must survive after would-be allies turn on them.
As always, no spoilers will be found here.
While the characters and action are captivating, I want to focus a bit more on the setting. The story takes place in a Venice-like city called Camorr. Lynch does an amazing job of thrusting the reader into this new and interesting place. The world feels expansive beyond this one city but unexplored beyond minor mention. The layers of world building can be felt in the dialogue/language, history, and religions. The weaving of these elements are everything a fantasy story needs.
As I’ve explored in past blog posts, fantasy can be a difficult genre to write both in creation and holding a reader’s attention. There is little familiarity except in more generic of terms. Elements of culture and society have to be infused within the narrative through observation and understanding possessed in the point of view offered. Some writers are vague in this exploration while others like Lynch dive deeper in the ocean of world building and succeed!
More to the story itself, Locke and Jean belong to a lesser, smaller gang of thieves surrounded by danger at every turn. This takes the form of secret police and larger gangs that all have collective agendas of their own. Throw in the threat of a Bondsmage (a warlock for hire) bent on killing them and you’ve got quite a thrill ride to enjoy!
What I enjoyed most upon reading this book is that it is actually pretty straight forward. I kept expecting crazy twists that knocked me backwards but instead, there were subtle actions that were consistent and reasonable within the world. There’s absolutely surprises and double-crosses that will keep you reading but you truly stay engaged in the story because you want to see how Locke and Jean will make it to the end of the book. Each are skilled in their own right but neither possesses magic or has an ally that does. They must rely on their wits and knowledge of the culture and city to survive.
It’s a rich world with so many interesting ideas that are fresh. The technology is advanced to a point where chemistry serves as an almost societal magic embraced by all where the more mystic of arts has to be purchased as I stated before. For a fantasy novel, it does not have an epic magic feel and those who actually practice magic–the Bondsmage–serve as more a background entity. It’s a controlled approach that doesn’t spread across the entirety of the narrative. This is a very cool idea and one I enjoyed. It put constrictions on what to expect from a fantastical stance.
Totally recommended. I’ve read the first three books of the series so far and enjoyed each as they explore new places and characters, expanding the world in a way that I really enjoyed. My only gripe (I realize I probably don’t do that enough in any of my reviews of things) is that I felt like some of the exposition was unnecessary. I get why Lynch added it (as a fellow writer, exposition is tough to navigate and probably more of a preference thing on my part). However, in this instance, it’s hard to go into more detail without spoiling anything. So, I’ll leave it at that.
Call to Action: Read it of course! (Click on the pic of the book above to purchase.) Or let me know what you thought about it if you have read it.