Monday, 23 September 2013

‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ by Scott Lynch

Today fantasy has developed into something…well fantastical! In a flood of new, invigorating styles the days of swords, dragons, magic and dungeon trawling are moving further and further. Of course that’s not to say that sword and sorcery epics are no longer desirable; one particular series comes to mind which has given a much-appreciated boost to the genre’s popularity, instead new approaches to the genre’s writing are pulling a lot more under the fantasy umbrella.

It is under this umbrella that you may find Scott Lynch’s first book in ‘The Gentleman Bastard Sequence’ series of books. Yes, there are swords and yes, it does contain magic but there is something far more to it than that.

For one the main character, young Locke Lamora, is not your average hero. He was not your usual servant or a farm hand, though he does have very humble origins, and he does not have some latent magic in him capable of holding back the forces of evil. In fact there are elements of his character that err on the very side of evil; his heroic, or even anti-heroic, motives coming through a moral code that does not shy away from doing bad things if they are deemed necessary. He is a refreshing character and helps mix up the very archetypal question of good and evil in fantasy books.

The setting too feels somehow fresh. It may contain impossibly tall buildings constructed from glowing glass and a system of canals to make Venice jealous but somehow it just feels…real. The Italian theme continues within the bustling city of Camorr; merchants crying wares on floating stalls, fashions reminiscent of a romantic, Renaissance-era Italy and a clear system of the rich, led by powerhouse families, the poor and a shady underworld ruled by a singular, ironfisted presence.

The story follows our not-so-good protagonist Locke Lamora; leader of the Gentleman Bastards; a small troupe of expert thieves. Locke and the Gentleman Bastards do what no other thief in Camorr would even dream of; prey on the rich. It is an unwritten agreement that none of the elite within Camorr can be targets of the underworld; an agreement punishable by death by whichever side gets to the rule-breaker first. It is a risky business but one that reaps the greatest awards.

In the midst of their greatest heist however the Gentleman Bastards become entangled in the plots of the Grey King, an unknown person who is slowly killing of the captains in the underworld and threatening to bring down the big boss himself. Locke must somehow navigate out of both dangers with his head still attached to his neck.

What made Scott Lynch’s prose a delight to read was his ability to write humor well; a feat that can challenge even the most seasoned of writers. It was laugh out loud humor, quite embarrassing when you look up to see a carriage filled with commuters staring at you, but it did not detract from the seriousness of the plot. In fact it perfectly harmonized the characters, setting and plot to make a triumphant package. 

The story is a rich tapestry filled with enough twists and turns to leave you bewildered, enough wonderment to leave you filled with whimsy and the right blend of humor and gravity that will be sure to make ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ a real page-turner and a lasting entry in the fantasy realms.