“Some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee.”
This book is definitely one of my new all-time favorites. I realize that it was originally published in 2006 so I’m a little late to the party, but it certainly did not disappoint given how high my expectations were after all of the glowing reviews I had read. Scott Lynch’s debut novel is full of criminally endearing characters, razor-sharp wit, heart breaking drama and exhilarating action which left me immediately reaching for the next entry in the series as soon as I was done.
The novel’s titular thief, Locke Lamora, is a fantastic protagonist, and one that I think could have been much worse had he not been handled so damn well. Over the course of his various heists Locke, being the wonderfully cocky asshole that he is, makes it clear that while he is brilliant at what he does (plotting and stealing for the thrill of stealing’s sake), he is also brash, emotional and impulsive. He makes mistakes and can be a bit of, well… a bastard at times, but he is just so charming and likable the rest of the time that you accept it as part of his personality. I feel like this statement could easily be misinterpreted as a criticism of the character or of Lynch’s writing, but that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dazzlingly smart heroes, but if there is one thing I can’t stand it’s a character whose only trait is being smart. It just always gives off this unpleasant ere of pretentiousness when said type of characters inevitably ends up ex-positing ad nauseum about how they’ve easily solved the problem(s) before them based on minute or otherwise completely withheld information, and I feared going into this novel that Locke might end up being such a character. I am thrilled to say I was wrong.
Now a character like Locke would be enjoyable enough on his own, but it’s the company he keeps that really pushes this novel to the next level for me. His comrades, the Gentlemen Bastards, are such a fun group and I loved seeing how this close-knit group of friends worked together. You really grow attached to them, and for me this was nowhere better exemplified than by Locke’s right-hand man: Jean Tannen. As much as I loved Locke, I can easily say that Jean was my favorite character in this book. A giant, husky, romance novel reading man who dual-wields hatchets? Sign me up. His more reserved demeanor and the degree to which he took none of Locke’s shit was just such a delight to read, and the fierce bond and loyalty the two shared was one of my favorite aspects of the book.
I also think that it’s worth noting that the perspective of this novel jumps around from past to present between chapters. Personally, this style of story-telling tends to be very hit-or-miss, as more often than not I find myself rushing through the more exposition-heavy flashback chapters to get back to the present action. While this was certainly true for some especially tense and emotionally charged portions of the novel, I really appreciated what the flashback chapters offered. Namely, showing how the Gentlemen Bastards grew up together as brothers and offering deeper context to their relationships as adults. The dialogue between them is really where Lynch’s writing shines the brightest. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I love a fantasy novel that is able to seamlessly combine lyrical descriptions with crass raunchy humor.
Oh yeah, this is a fantasy novel by the way. I only mention this because aside from occasionally acknowledging the multiple moons in their sky or making use of alchemical glowing orbs to light dark spaces, there were multiple points in this book that I forgot it took place in a fantasy world at all. Again though, not necessarily a criticism. It’s Venetian Renaissance inspired setting , while fantastical, kept the story relatively grounded… which only made it all the more shocking and subsequently terrifying when magic-wielding characters like the Falconer starting popping up and posing a very real threat to our heroes. His employer, the Gray King, also served as a great antagonist. Conniving and with a mind that rivaled Locke’s own, watching these two constantly trying to mentally out-maneuver each other was a nail biting literary ride.
I don’t know what else I can say about this novel other than, go read it. It was an amazing story with even more amazing characters and I can’t wait to read more. 5/5