Scott Lynch – The Lies Of Locke Lamora

I was not immediately taken in by the reviews I read about The Lies Of Locke Lamora (2006) by Scott Lynch, the first novel in the Gentleman Bastards Sequence. There are many fantasy novels where thieves have the centre stage and they often feel rather similar as one in most cases sees a similar series of activities they are expected to perform. It is hard thus to escape them being stereotypes. Once I did make the step to give this lauded novel I try I understood why (and this is the second time I have read the novel).

Different from the usual fantasy novels that concern thieves is that the main protagonist and his consorts are in essence rascals. Their activities are acts of comedy in a rather grim world. This is unusual because rascal characters are usual side-kicks with not so much substance. Building a novel around a group of such characters I would consider to be not that easy as one has to create distinct characters while each contributes to playing the right kind of part. Lynch has succeeded in pulling this off and has thus created a refreshing set of characters.

One effective technique that Lynch uses to avoid infodumping is by adding interludes that contain flashbacks or certain background information for later scenes to come. The flashbacks can sometimes even considered to be short stories as they are almost selfcontained. The interludes also provide a way of increasing the tension when a chapter ends with a cliffhanger.

The world that Lynch creates contains many familiar flavors that reminds the reader of a Mediterreanean setting while it avoids copying cultures exactly. There are fortunately a number of peculiarities that enrich the setting. There is magic but it plays a relatively minor role. Much attention is paid to alchemy and artifice to show that the world has a unique technology level which makes it hard to pinpoint to an earthly analogy.

Lynch´s prose is easy and enjoyable to read. He knows to capture the reader and present original and entertaining characters with a sufficient degree of depth. The pages flip easily as event progress steadily and not too fast. His interludes provide moments of rest for the reader before jumping into the fray again.

The plot is fairly unpredictable and there are numerous twists that will take the reader by surprise. While plent of dark and grim things happen there are many light moments of comedy and fun. Lynch knows that character confrontations provide the sparks that make scenes lively.

So are there weak points? Lynch may create a good number of original characters but the reader gets barely the chance to know them. You can smell the history and while this is a strong thing it does give a mixed effect. The technique with the interludes and flashbacks may be very effective and enriching the story they can also seem like a way to thicken the story. A question that can arise is if the story could have contained more if the background information had provided in the regular scenes where useful. This would force the reader to pay more attention to gather the different pieces together instead of them being provided in an orderly fashion.

Essentially this is a strong and good novel that has pretty much nothing to complain about. What remains is matter of taste. This is a grim fantasy novel about unusual thieves with a flair of comedy. It can be classified as an urban fantasy as there is one set location and the city plays a role of its own to set the tone and the atmosphere. The protagonists undergo a growing series of complications that get interwoven with each other. There is some magic but it plays a small role. Unlike other thief novels, Lynch keeps much down-to-earth in a fantastical setting.

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