Monday, 18 April 2011

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

This was recommended to me a while ago by a chap who, like me, enjoys reading stuff by George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie. Due to my lengthy to-buy list I only bought it fairly recently and finished it today.

As might be expected from the title, the book follows the adventures and trials of the mostly good-natured and devious Locke Lamora, a thief par excellence in the city state of Camorr. He is one of a small, close-knit gang who execute cunning acts of theft/fraud.

It took me a little while to get into the book, which is quite common when reading something by a new author. Its real strength is the story, which manages numerous unexpected twists without degenerating into the loathsome deus ex machina or stretching credulity to breaking point, coupled with the cleverness of Lamora and his associates.

Sorcery is very uncommon, but there are numerous references to alchemy and its uses (particularly as a source of light). Although the good-natured (well, mostly) thief is not wholly original it is quite refreshing to have a protagonist who is not endowed with political power, or martial ability, or arcane strength. Lamora’s just a sly, likeable chap with many vices and quite a few virtues.

In terms of style, the author shifts timeframes quite often. This is not something I’m overly fond of and at first I found it not to my liking. However, further into the book it worked reasonably well, sometimes providing light relief and more information on a topic or character. In a way, the book reminded me of Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows. Took me a while to get into it, but I ended up racing through it and loved the storyline.

The characters are three-dimensional, and react very realistically to unexpected situations (I could give a few examples, but the best ones would be massive spoilers).

Slightly unusually for new fantasy, this is a self-contained book with a proper conclusion at the end, instead of being the first instalment in a trilogy. I liked getting the full ending (and it’s a proper ending) and fully plan on getting the next book, Red Seas Under Red Skies, although it is rated somewhat lower on Amazon.

At the start I said this was compared to stuff by George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie. So, how does it compare?

It’s substantially different, being a solo work rather than a series/trilogy, and the closest book in style/plot by the two authors I mentioned would be Best Served Cold. The Lies of Locke Lamora is better than that, and I’d rank it ahead of The Heroes as well. Would I recommend it? Yes, but I’d warn the chap I mentioned it to that the first few chapters may need a little perseverance.


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