Friday, May 27, 2011

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

Well... damn. That was good.
The Lies of Locke Lamora

You may or may not have seen my last post wherein I said I was going to give this a look the other night... I was then unable to put it down.

The cover blurb, from George R. R. Martin, reads, "Fresh, original and engrossing... gorgeously realized."  

Yes, just so, Mr. Martin.

The back cover sums up my thoughts rather nicely. (This is to say, since I no longer do 'book reviews', that I don't think it's a crime to tell you when a story kicks ass.)

In this stunning debut, Scott Lynch delivers the thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his tightly knit band of tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part "Robin Hood," one part Ocean's Eleven, and entirely enthralling...
That Robin Hood stuff isn't clear from the start, but the Ocean's Eleven feel? Amazingly, yes.

I have always wondered about political intrigue in the ancient days. There was no technology. No phone taps, no google searches. Right? Duh. It was all groundwork, based on information that could be obtained while on the go, through a network of spies that you'd have to trust to be loyal. Every written piece of correspondence would have to be accounted for, otherwise it'd be a potential liability.

Dunno about you, but I got busted for passing notes in school ALOT. (Kids these days can just send a text. So lame.)

Locke LaMora pulls off his misdirections and such without cheating, i.e., using magic. Good ole fashioned ground work, trust, and lots of luck. Best fantasy representation of a con-artist that I have ever read.

Lynch's writing style/voice is excellent. Punchy, witty prose, lots of descriptive worldbuilding, and believable dialogue. Easy to read, easy to enjoy.

However, he does one thing some of you may not agree with. Instead of inserting background exposition into the 'present day' chapters, into the dialogue ("Well, as everyone knows Bob...") he does Interlude chapters.

Most of the time I would never advise this. Flashback chapters? Ugh. Because they take you right out of the action of what's happening in the story.

Lynch, however, masters this. It works because he starts off the tale with Locke LaMora as a small child, so the reader becomes interested in the child character; it's essentially reading two stories at once. Moreso, every flashback gives not only weight to the next chapter, but perspective. It makes the 'present' action that much more powerful. Sure, it's manipulative, but in my opinion, he nails it most of the time.

Towards the end of the story, I was reaching a point where the action was non-stop, and my response to the interlude was "Aww, really? I don't care! What happens next?" - suitably, those chapters were shorter. Clever man, Scott Lynch.

Lemme show ya... here's the end of a flashback and the beginning of the next chapter, where the child protagonist speaks to his mentor.

"It's the oldest rule of their guild, a rule without exceptions: kill a Bondsmage and the whole guild drops whatever it's doing to come after you. They seek you out by any means they need to use. They kill your friends, your family, your associates. They burn your home. They destroy everything you've ever built. Before they finally let you die, they make sure you know that your line has been wiped from the earth, root and branch."
"So nobody is allowed to oppose them at all?"
"Oh, you can oppose them, all right. You can try to fight back, for what it's worth when one of them is against you. But if you go as far as killing one, well, it's just not worth it. Suicide would be preferable; at least then they won't kill everyone you ever loved or befriended."
"Yes." Chains shook his head. "Sorcery's impressive enough, but it's their fucking attitude that makes them such a pain. And that's why, when you find yourself face to face with one, you bow and scrape and mind your 'sirs' and 'madams.'"


"Nice bird, asshole," said Locke.
The Bondsmage stared coldly at him, nonplussed.
(pp 288 - 289)

That example is a bit direct, but the other usages of the Interlude chapters are equally functional in adding perspective and gravity to whatever action is happening to the protagonist in the 'present' story.

Lies is book one in The Gentleman Bastards sequence, of which Red Seas Under Red Skies is next (and absolutely on my 'must have' list). That noted, Lies doesn't end on a cliffhanger; all the notable threads are handled within the story. It's simply that the concluding action leaves new ripples in its wake.

Scott Lynch website:

Reading journal, for the weekend... Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) and continuing with Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love.

What are you reading over the holiday weekend?

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