Because all of life is stories.
Take one part The Godfather, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and set it in a renaissance era Venice style city of canals filled with sharks and relics of a forerunner civilization and you might have the barest beginnings of the world of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Add in some of the most creative swearing I’ve ever seen, the best religion I’ve seen put into a fantasy world, and, to quote one of the main characters, “heaps and heaps of fucking fun” and The Lies of Locke Lamora begins to take shape.
The first of an eventual series of seven (Book four drops sometime this year supposedly) Lies of Locke Lamora may be the most fun I’ve had reading a book, ever. Seriously. It’s just a joy to read and hits all the right notes for my reading sensibilities. The characters are smart mouths. The secondary world is real and lived in and unique and mysterious without getting in the way of the plot. It has just the right amount of magic for a story like this, that is to say, not very much. Everyone is too clever by half and the plot splits off and combines and recombines into several smaller stories that give us a good amount of backstory and still manage to be relevant to the greater plot, which is excellent.
Put simply, Scott Lynch is absolutely and without question one of my favorite writers of all time.
The manner Lynch tells stories in takes a little bit of getting used to at first, but by the time the first two chapters have passed, it’s more of a credit to the story than a detriment in my opinion. Each book in the Gentleman Bastard series tells two different stories. The main story, and the backstory. By the time the book is done we’ve had two complete stories told, with each one containing bits of information or jokes that pay off in the other story. In this case, the backstory is the introduction of Locke and his fellow Gentleman Bastards, the thieving crew that he grows up in. We meet Locke, the titular character and master conman. Jean, the straight man. The giant wall of muscle and sinew that is all to happy to break people that upset Locke and himself. Calo and Galdo, the twins with the quick mouths and quicker hands. Bug, the young bright eyed recruit. And we meet Father Chains, garrista and leader of the Gentleman Bastards, the one who brings together and teaches the rest of the group everything they know.
The main story, the one that takes place in the present as far as this story is concerned, involves the grown up Bastards scheming to relieve one of the young and powerful Dons of the city-state of Camorr of nearly half of his worldly wealth. Along the way to the big score however, a vengeful criminal styling himself “The Grey King” appears in Camorr and begins killing off well placed criminals of the Camorri underworld one by one. Caught between loyalty, blackmail, and the score of a lifetime, Locke and company must decide what they really value in life, and how to go about getting it without getting their throats slit in the night.
I mentioned earlier that Camorr and the surrounding nations of Lynch’s books makeup one of the most complete and engaging worlds I’ve ever had the privilege to read. Without seeming boring or resorting to unentertaining info dumps Lynch builds a world I could sink my teeth into and dream about exploring. This world of men is one that was built upon the ruins of a world of forerunners named the Eldren. Glass structures tower above the works of men, unbreakable and beautiful. Humanity has moved in to these ruins, augmenting them with wood and stone to give them a more human feel. Strange monsters and man-eating jumping sharks litter the waters of Camorr, and even offer up entertainment at the Shifting Revel. Alchemy creates lights and poisons and alcohol and unique fruits and vegetables that sound real enough to touch or taste. Traditions and rituals and aristocracy give a weight of time to the world as well. It feels as if we’re joining a world already in progress, rather than jumping into a fresh new one.
The religion plays a part in this as well. The Therin world revolves around their devotion of varying degrees to the 12 (13 if you happen to be a criminal and follower of the Crooked Warden) and the duties that the twelve are responsible for. From Aza Guilla, Lady of the Long Silence to Iono, Lord of the Grasping Waters, the multitude of deities all serve and represent a different tenet of society and life. Locke himself is not only leader of the Gentleman Bastards, but an ordained priest in service to The Nameless Thirteenth, the Father of Necessary Pretexts, the Crooked Warden. This priesthood of thieves doesn’t just encourage mayhem and mischief, they live by a very strict set of rules. Namely, thieves prosper, and the rich remember. As the series goes on we learn more about the various gods and goddesses, more about the Eldren and alchemy, and more about the people and places that make up Lynch’s intriguing world.
From the wonderful, wonderful, cursing and colorful turns of phrase to the various gods, dukes, dons, capas, garristas and just plain thieves, The Lies of Locke Lamora is more fun than I’ve had reading in as long as I can remember. If you don’t mind the language and some violence along the way, it’s a thrill of an introduction to a series that just gets better and better with age, from the ridiculous and powerful characters (Just wait until you meet Zamira the pirate queen in book two) to the mysteries the world contains, this is a series to watch in the coming years.