The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Werthead

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Just a review I knocked together of the best debut fantasy novel I've read in some years:

That The Lies of Locke Lamora is a debut novel is difficult to believe. That it was written by someone younger than I am is even more so. That it not only meets but exceeds the hype that has been built up around it is damn-nigh impossible to believe, yet it is so. In the city-state of Camorr the Secret Peace exists between the criminals and the rulers, a decades-long pact between the Capa and the Duke that keeps the merchants and nobles' wares and riches safe. The only problem is that two people are screwing with the Pact, one a smooth conman and his band of helpers, the other a shadowy killer striking from the shadows without warning. The city is about to be plunged into a war in the shadows as these factions collide.

The story is told skillfully and economically. Lynch knows how to show, not tell. The story moves with a rattling, page-turning pace where exposition is kept to a minimum. As the 'current' storyline moves forward, Lynch gives us frequent flashbacks to the formative years of the titular Locke Lamora, showing his rise from an overconfident scoundrel to a skilled conman and demonstrating how the bonds of true friendship are forged between Lamora and his band of knaves, the Gentlemen Bastards. Amongst this he also brings to life his prized creation, the city of Camorr itself, a traditional fantasyscape of guards, merchants and peasents eking a life in hovels under the watchful eye of the aristocracy, but with an element of the strange introduced as all are dwelling in a city forged thousands of years ago by an inscrutable alien race whose disappearance remains troubling. With its many islands and districts, temples and guilds shadowed by towering glass monoliths, Camorr is as much a character as Locke Lamora himself, a city that immediately joins Ankh-Morpork, Lankhamar and Viriconium as a perfect setting for stories of the fantastical.

Lynch is also a master alchemist of taking his influences and whipping them into something fresh and exciting. He has George RR Martin's skill are creating great characters and then unexpectedly killing them, mixed with early Raymond Feist's sheer gleeful storytelling and occasional eye for detail (the merchant houses sequences seem heavily inspired by the trading house chapters in Feist's Rise of a Merchant Prince). The story shifts tones with ease, moving from its early chapters of setting up cons and marks (feeling oddly reminiscent of the British TV series Hustle) to a much darker place, yet always with a certain enjoyable wit about it. Lynch knows how to make the reader laugh, even if the humour turns from light amusement to midnight-black as the story progresses.

This is the opening volume of a seven-novel sequence, yet it is virtually entirely self-contained, with only the closing few pages giving us a sense of where the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies (due in January 2007), will take the story next. I for one cannot wait. 5/5
 

Jay

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I agree with everything you say, in fact I have been screaming it for the last 8 months! :D

This is the best debut of 2006, and the best debut I have read drawing from (forgive me here) what people would call traditional fantasy influences I can remember, in terms of not being necessarilly subverting but expanding upon the tradition in the same vein.

As Werthead mentions there is also very little risk. This is the first in a multi-book sequence, and while it promises more adventures, the story given is a complete one. This is the funnest I have had reading fantasy since I was like 6 and was introduced to Corwin and a deck of trumps, but is a fun in a manner that shouldn't be taken as comedic or as satire - but as a presence of natural wit. I just fell completely in love with this manuscript and been waiting for others to read it for seemingly ever! I reviewed The Lies of Locke Lamora a few weeks, and it can be read here.

Highest possible recommendation; a breath of fresh air in a familiar place, and the Thorn of Camorr is already one of my favorite characters in fantasy.
 

WriterDoug

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based on what I have just read here, the premise of this novel sounds like a big rip-off of a videogame I have played many, many years ago--

all right down to the names, settings, political situations, conflict, and tone.

i am going to just push that aside though and give this author the benefit of the doubt.

still, i cannot help but to wonder.:rolleyes:

-WD
 

Susan Boulton

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WriterDoug said:
based on what I have just read here, the premise of this novel sounds like a big rip-off of a videogame I have played many, many years ago--

all right down to the names, settings, political situations, conflict, and tone.

i am going to just push that aside though and give this author the benefit of the doubt.

still, i cannot help but to wonder.:rolleyes:

-WD

I would be very careful about accusing an author of plagiarism unless you have cast iron proof. Also from what I know of Scott Lynch, I somehow doubt this very much. The creation of the "Gentleman Bastards" has been brewing in Scott's mind a long, long, time.

Take a look at this inview, it might even address your comments about a role playing game.

http://www.fantasybookspot.com/node/1199
 

GOLLUM

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Huh? How come I've not heard of this book yet....

Sounds intriguing. I think I might add this to my read list for the second half of 2006.

Edit: Has anyone got hold of an ARC of Hal Ducan's Ink yet? I'm dying to know how it compares to his wonderful debut novel Vellum.
 
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Brys

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How have you not heard of it? It's been the most hyped novel of 2006 - even GRRM's recommended it. It sounds excellent though - I haven't seen a negative review of it, and it seems to be living up to the hype.
 

Jay

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Has anyone got hold of an ARC of Hal Ducan's Ink yet? I'm dying to know how it compares to his wonderful debut novel Vellum.
I also interviewed Hal Duncan a couple of weeks ago (where you can read about some of the changes in Ink), and he said Ink isn't finished yet, and isn't due until perhaps January. Although it might be a bit presumptious, I would expect to have a galley when it's made available and will definitely let people know when/if I receive one.
 

Susan Boulton

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Jay said:
I also interviewed Hal Duncan a couple of weeks ago (where you can read about some of the changes in Ink), and he said Ink isn't finished yet, and isn't due until perhaps January. Although it might be a bit presumptious, I would expect to have a galley when it's made available and will definitely let people know when/if I receive one.
You lucky so and so.. I had the pleasure of meeting Hal Duncan at Eastercon this year. Just listening to him, both on the panels, and in the bar was a treat!
 

GOLLUM

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Brys said:
How have you not heard of it? It's been the most hyped novel of 2006 - even GRRM's recommended it. It sounds excellent though - I haven't seen a negative review of it, and it seems to be living up to the hype.
Yeh well I've been immersed in my pre-cold war phase, so I've not been up with things as much this year to date. Easy to get lost sometimes in the past I can assure you, just ask newcomer J.D.....:rolleyes:

Thanks Jay, look forward to finding out more about Ink when the time comes..
 

j d worthington

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GOLLUM said:
Easy to get lost sometimes in the past I can assure you, just ask newcomer J.D.....:rolleyes:
Who, me? Lost in the past? I don't know what you're talking about. It is still 1830, right?;)
 

Lunatic

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I plan on getting this novel eventually. Probably later this summer, when my budget is not as tight.

Count me as another eagerly awaiting Hal Duncan's Ink. :)
 

red_temple

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Sounds awsome! Thanks for the recommendation, Werthead - I've been looking for a new book to read. I just hope my local bookstore has it in stock, coz I'm too impatient to wait for Amazon to deliver it, and too cheap to pay for next day delivery....
 

Brys

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The Strange Horizons review is pretty bad - the reviewer begins by insulting all other reviews ("bribed to tell such lies") and then doesn't actually review the book properly. She spends the whole review comparing it to JS&MN. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a different book by a different author - they're not supposed to be the same. If they were, a lot of people would be disappointed, I think. A couple of her points are mildly valid - it's not a massively original and imaginative fantasy along the lines of Perdido Street Station. It's not bad in the creativity area, but that isn't what the book's about. And to describe it as an "average fantasy world" requires some rather significant manipulation. There are common fantasy elements in there, but to my knowledge, most (epic) fantasy worlds are generally pre-industrial and primarily rural - there are few large cities, and especially few independent city states like Venice or Camorr.

It's also the point when it was driven home to me that Lamora is not very interesting.
Her example IMO contradicts that statement. Locke's decision is entirely realistic in those circumstances and far more interesting than the more common, more predictable approach of just fighting the Grey King head on - it seems that perhaps Locke was too interesting for her.

He seems unusually uncurious and lacking in initiative
Um... what book was she reading? Pretty much everything he does shows that he has a lot of initiative. Right back to when he was a young child.

I have a lot of problems with that review - not least because of the insults at the beginning and the ridiculous determination of the reviewer to compare it to other fantasy books, also partly because of the contradictions, and secondly it seemed like she went in trying not to enjoy the book. Because it was hyped, it set the reviewer against the book, and so it didn't matter much what the contents were. There are some valid criticisms in it, but they're hugely overplayed in the review, and when they aren't backed up by good examples they don't have much strength - and it's also full of spoilers.
 

williamjm

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GOLLUM said:
Just for a point of view from the other side of the fence, here's a less than sparkling review of this book from Strange Horizons. I'll be getting the book next month (Shipment Delays GRR....) but it may be of interest to those who've already read it.

****WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS****

http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2006/06/the_lies_.shtml
It isn't the sort of review I'd mention to people who hadn't already read the book since it is full of huge plot spoilers, if I'd read it before reading the book I'd have been very annoyed.
 
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GOLLUM

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Well I've not read it yet myslef, aim to next month. Fortunately I have a selective memory that allows me to forget things I've read the previous day.

I'll put a spoiler alert on that post though to warn others....:)
 

Lunatic

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I've read that review, and I think Brys pretty much summed up my thoughts on it. I enjoyed it immensely! :)

Speaking of this book, I got my signed copy from Clarkesworld in last week.

Did I mention it contained the typed manuscript of the prologue of the next book in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies? :D
 

nixie

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Having just started the book, so far I'm finding intriguing.
Locke not interesting? Unless the whole book goes dramatically downhill, then I think I've been reading a different book from the reviewer.
 
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