Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch


I fell in love with fantasy as a genre at sixteen, after watching the first film and then racing through the book of The Lord of the Rings. For several years after that, epic fantasy was pretty much all that I read -  David Eddings, Cecelia Dart-Thornton, Julia Gray and Robin Hobb standing out as my favourites (although I tried to reread my beloved Elenium a couple of years ago and had real difficulty with it. I fear I have become too critical a reader.) More recently, although the fantastical remains my literary comfort zone, I've preferred the skewed realities of Neil Gaiman and Erin Morgenstern, the magical realism of Cecelia Ahern, and just lately, hard science fiction. With the exception of George R. R. Martin, "Fantasyworld" has given way to our world viewed through a different lens. The Lies of Locke Lamora took me back to the Fantasyworld of my teenage days, and I read about Locke Lamora's city of Camorr with warm feelings of nostalgia.

If Locke Lamora takes place in the generic fantasyworld - which is not meant as a criticism - Camorr itself is a very specific country within that world. Camorr has a medieval Venetian feel to it, with its canals and gondolas, ruled by Dukes, but it is a city built upon the indestructible "Elderglass" remains of a pre-human civilisation. We don't spend that much time among the nobility, but among an underclass of thieves and cutthroats, characters who would not be out of place in a Dickensian novel. Locke Lamora and his band of reprobates use precious little magic, but they have talents of their own: they are masters of trickery and disguise, the most prosperous thieves in Camorr. The titular Locke Lamora was sold by one Fagin-esque criminal (for not knowing the limits of respectable thievery) to a confidence trickster who appears in the guise of a blind priest. And it suits him well. Locke and his cronies revel in disguises and seem to complicate their confidence tricks for themselves for the sheer fun of it, just to show off. Locke Lamora has used his wits to gain himself his position in Camorr's underworld, but the time comes when his wits are all he has left.

I found the pacing of Locke Lamora quite slow to begin with. The narrative alternates between past and present, and it feels like a large portion of the book is there to set the stage for the real story. It was enjoyable getting to know the characters and their histories, and I found that the chapters about Locke's childhood flew a lot quicker than the present scenes, which contained a lot of underworld politics. I'd watch Locke's exploits enjoying the gradual revelation of what his end game would turn out to be, but I found myself wondering when the real plot was going to get started.

But around halfway, the plot hooked me in, keeping me gripping the pages and shouting at the book as I wondered how is he going to get out of this one? What happens next? I came to enjoy spending time with the characters, and their light-hearted banter makes the sometimes heavy prose easier to read. But there are shocking twists, devastating revelations, and one particular betrayal was comparable to a certain wedding in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

2 comments:

  1. YES! You read it! I'm a Happy Hanna right now :)

    But around halfway, the plot hooked me in, keeping me gripping the pages and shouting at the book...

    I told you it was worth trudging through the first half. The second book gets going A LOT quicker, you'll be glad to know!

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  2. I just bought this one, after it got a rave review from Chris (TheReadingRhodes on BookTube) - and was also recommended ages ago by Hanna, of course. I've not really been a reader of high fantasy for many years, but there are some fantastic-sounding series doing the rounds at the moment so I really want to get started again. I'd like to read the Pern books at some point (I read a few as a kid but never managed to find them all, certainly not in order), and the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson - and A Song of Ice and Fire, obviously. SO MANY SERIES TO READ, KATIE!

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