The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to say that I was very impressed with this story. The worldbuilding was excellent and distinct to me. The setting of this book was like Pre-Renaissance Italy, with Faerie architectural elements and fantastical magic thrown in, but never overwhelming. I especially appreciated that Mr. Lynch went with a group of characters who were admittedly seedy, but utterly lovable, The Gentlemen Bastards. This whole world is very much on the edge of unpalatability. You can see and smell the filthy and unsavory environments. This story is full of cutthroats and unscrupulous criminals of all kinds. And there is the mafia element. I give the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and the Russia mafia a free pass, because there is something very fascinating about them to me. But I really dislike the Italian mafia. Maybe this book was therapy for me, because I had to deal with the whole “Made Man” vibe, but it wasn’t the eyesore that I expected. Probably because the Gentleman Bastards are mainly swindlers and thieves, not blood-thirsty murderers with no code. But they walk in this dangerous world, and often face the nasty aspects (and characters) that end up with people dying painfully and in very bloody ways.
I’m touchy-feely when it comes to characters when I read books. I read for pleasure, and I need to have that connection to the characters in books that will end up being favorites. I totally had that with this book. From the beginning, Locke won me over. He’s one of those characters that literally steal their way into my heart. He had this ability to be a thorn in people’s sides, but it’s not from a mean spirited/cruel standpoint. It’s just like he’s a little imp and he can’t help himself. He wasn’t perfect, and I loved him for it. Locke is the planner of the operation. He’s not the muscle, and he’s not even the most book smart. In fact, he’s scrawny and small, and a terrible fighter. Funny, how his personality is so larger than life. Each member of his gang plays an important role, and that’s outside of the fact that they are his friends, his adopted brothers. Locke has to learn a lesson about loyalty as a very young man, lessons that he never forgets.
I do love a good coming of age story, and so I liked how Mr. Lynch starts this story with Locke as a very young boy, and shows him growing up, and how he ends up being the leader of the Gentleman Bastards. He also shows how Locke’s relationships with his boys develop. By the time the story gets to present day, I have already established a bond to these guys. I like how everything ties together in this story, from the flashbacks of Locke and the other Gentlemen Bastards as a boy, the anecdotes about the lands in this book, their beliefs, the way that the criminal and societal structures develop, everything. This is definitely a book where no parts are just throwaway filler. It all ties together, and I appreciated that my attention when I reading was rewarded with a ‘payoff.’
The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a genteel or gentle read. The language and talk is often quite vulgar and rough. It didn’t bother me, because this is the world that Locke lives in. He might inhabit a dukedom full of rich nobles, but they live up in the clouds, and he lives down in the dirty, rough streets of Camorr. It’s the real world, not the pretty one. This book is about criminals; and while the main character are lovable, admirable men with a highly-developed sense of ethics, they are thieves, swindlers, and liars. However, there is no question that they won my loyalty. This is a book where there are shades of gray, and bonds between the characters are complex. It’s not always just about friendship and loyalty. It’s as much about least cost differential, and do it or die kind of relationships. The people you have to ‘deal with’ because you don’t have much of a choice. You don’t have to like them. Heck, you might hate their guts even. Kind of real life, but ramped up for those of us who are fortunate to live in a saner, safer everyday world. The suspense inherent in this world made for an exciting read. There were also very welcome humorous moments that had me cracking up; and the bonding between Locke and his friends, the sage advice given to him, in a very earthy way by his mentor and leader Chains, and the family they formed was heart-warming.
If you are like me, and you don’t normally like the whole wiseguys/mafia thing, don’t pass this book by just for those reasons. Yes, there are some violent, cruel elements in this story. However, Locke and his boys always had my loyalty, and their actions never made me lose faith in them. On the other hand, if you do like the caper stories where the small guys work together to get their piece of the pie, and you are rooting for them the whole time, you should read this book. This one is going on my favorites list, and I am excited read more of the Gentleman Bastards’ capers.
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