Novel Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora

In a mysterious world of ancient wonders, one man struggles to steal anything that isn’t nailed down.

General Information

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
Original Publication Date: June 27, 2006
ISBN: 055358894X
Cover Price: $7.99 for Mass Market Paperback
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Moving from heist novel to revenge adventure, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a very personal story set against the backdrop of a huge world, most of which we never get to see.

High Point

Almost too many to mention. Lynch does an amazing job of worldbuilding without any real infodump. Short interludes of anecdote and history lesson are enjoyable and engaging – and they all end up being important in time.

Also, while reading this book, I realized just how much I enjoy a good heist story.

Low Point

Many people suggest that their low point is how “small” the story is compared to the vastness of the world Lynch built. I disagree – I think this is one of the strong points. It’s nice to have a fantasy novel where the fate of the world is not at stake. My personal low point is actually a silly numerical problem. The amount of money Locke needs to steal to make a death offering for the people he accidentally got killed is almost half of the total money his gang has stolen since he took over – and they haven’t spent much of that because it’s such a huge sum that they’re as wealthy as the aristocracy. If that’s so, how could he have possibly stolen so much to pay off the death offerings prior to the beginning of the main plot?

The Scores

Inasmuch as I am aware this is a highly original book. The world, while clearly based on Medici-controlled Italy, with a particularly strong suggestion of Venice, is fully realized in its own unique political intrigues and fantasy elements. I can’t come up with a sufficiently succinct “it’s x meets y” to be able to give this anything less than a 5/6.

The imagery was, at times, nothing short of jaw-dropping. The city of Camorr began in my mind as a stereotypical fantasy city. Over the course of the book I had a clear image in my head of most of the districts within it, the strange structures of Elderglass, and the constant flow of boat traffic through the waterways around the city. 6/6

I was completely drawn in by the story. I have a confession to make here. This was my first purchased e-book. Downloaded from Amazon to the Kindle app on my Android phone, I thought “I’ve heard good things about this one, I’ll see what the free preview is like”. After a chapter, I was intrigued. After 4, I thought “wow, I think I’ll buy this when I get a chance”. After 7 (yes, the preview was seven chapters) I realized I had to know where all of this was going and I had to buy it immediately. This is as much a recommendation of the editing and writing as the story, but I think it fits here. There is very little that I find as fascinating to watch as a good con man at work, using the expectations of his marks against them. This book spends the first half showing you exactly that – a con man and his team at the top of their game. And then their world comes crashing down around them. I personally can’t recommend it enough. 6/6

I fell in love with the characters. Even incidental characters you may encounter for all of two pages have enough spark to bring them to life. Snarky, witty, arrogant, noble, dour, and above all colorful characters abound. And if you’re looking for a story with strong female characters, you could do worse. 5/6.

The emotional response is, upon reflection, one of the weaker areas of the book. I was certainly fascinated by the characters and their actions, and I was absolutely cheering everyone on – but, because of the type of story I knew I was reading, I was anticipating various calamities. I spent most of the first half of the story watching everything run smoothly and waiting for the other shoe to drop. It therefore came as no surprise when it did. There were a few twists about how that happened that caused me some distress, but even those had less impact than I think they should have. In the end, I deem it 2/6

As for editing, the story flits back and forth between the present, the past, and various historical stories, anecdotes, and what might be called “parables” to illustrate the world the story is taking place in. Each one in some way informs the action, but not always immediately following the revelation – much to the author’s and editor’s credit. As a result, tension is heightened when necessary, information is revealed without seeming contrived, and the greater arc of the story is spun out over the course of the book in a way that might otherwise have been too much to take in all at once. 6/6

Overall, this book dragged me through to the end by my nose and I loved every minute of it. 5/6

In total, The Lies of Locke Lamora receives 35/42.

Additional Notes and Comments

One minor note – there is a lot (And I mean a LOT) of swearing in this book – and not typical “fantasy” swearing – honest to goodness George-Carlin-seven-dirty-words swearing. While I’d normally find that distracting in a fantasy novel, and it did initially startle me, in the end it worked. The world these people live in would be full of that kind of language, and in that way it was appropriate. But go in knowing that’s what you’re getting.

3 replies on “Novel Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora”

  1. Very good book. A bit slow for the first couple hundred pages, but it picked up nicely by the end. Read the second book in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and liked it too. According to Amazon, there’s a third book in the works, The Republic of Thieves.

  2. I feel like a complete schmuck for not reviewing this back when I read it a few years ago. It’s utterly brilliant!

    I’m putting off book 2 until book 3 is out. In fact, I should probably reread #1 to be fully up to speed.

    I agree with your assessment of the scale of the story. It’s about a smaller group in a much larger world. No world-ending godlike beings at play here. Just thieves, thugs, and the aristocracy.

  3. @Brian – and that’s one of my favorite things about it. I’ve been wondering if there’s a place in Fantasy for that kind of story. It was nice to stumble across one that also managed to be a hell of a lot of fun.

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