Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Camorr

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Some people steal to survive, some people steal for revenge… others do it simply for the challenge and pure amusement. Found and brought into the organized criminal underworld as a young boy, Locke finds his niche in the thieving and trickery business. If children develop their talents at a young age, Locke excelled above all other Catchfire orphans in his seamless ability to switch from character to character, deceiving his way out of tight situations, all with an actor’s flair.  Locke’s zest and ambition for doing “big jobs” soon lands him too much attention, however, causing minor quakes in the fragile truce that exists between the criminals and the law enforcing “Yellowjackets” of Camorr, and his first master soon condemns him to death.  But wait! Where there is a possibility of making a profit from such a liability as Locke, what kind of criminal could opt for less? The first master decides instead, to pass him into some other hands in exchange for a hefty sum, and be rid of the responsibility of restraining this little boy from having too much “fun”. Now Locke’s true education begins.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is not your conventional fantasy story. And it’s definitely not the kind of novel that I would pick up normally. However, you can’t help but appreciate Scott Lynch’s well threaded plot, and eventually be dragged out of your comfort zone to enjoy something fresh and intelligently put together. Many plot details you come across in reading this novel (excepting one thing…) reappear later on in the plot in the most surprising way, adding to the depth and dimension of the story. I love it when the author doesn’t disappoint you in this way! Many a times I’ve read things from other novels that I thought, “Aha! This is going to be important!” only to be very disappointed when not even a whisper of it is used again.

One thing I really liked was how the timeline and plot of the present day was peppered with “interludes”. During these brief interludes, the reader is momentarily brought back to the past where a certain incident happened in the lives of one of the characters. This was very effective in keeping my attention. Sometimes writing a strictly linear plot causes an impatient reader to quickly lose interest.  If I have a book like that, I tend to wonder, “Why do I have to read pages and pages of this?” and I read less and less of it (though still valiantly trying to finish it), slowly forgetting the plot as I indulge in other books simultaneously, until, when the plot finally gets exciting again, I’ve already forgotten certain important details. So, Scott Lynch interweaves the present and the past, and the reader slowly gains information while keeping up with where all the action is!

This book is wit and daring. Be warned though! There are some choice cusses interspersed, which kind of threw me off at first. But, what do you expect from the everyday language of uneducated and liberal worded criminals? This is not to say Locke and his gang were not educated. Far far far from it! Father Chains, Locke’s new “mentor”, opens up the possibilities of what an intelligent thief with the skills Locke possesses, could do to to swindle the educated and wealthy, and he gives his acolytes a well-rounded education themselves, probably better than any rich man’s brat could get.

The only major drawback (for me, anyway) is the immense list of all the places mentioned in this book. I can’t keep them all in order in my head. I wish Scott Lynch has included a map with all these locations on it. At first, I tried to remember, then, when times got busy, they sort of slipped out of my memory, and when I returned to the book, I’d already forgotten where some of the places were. But, the good news is – I don’t think it’s a major issue in the plot. If you know where the basic places are, no worries!

There were many creative inventions thrown in too. Elderglass roses that siphon off your blood if you so much as scratch yourself on their thorns, stones whose fumes can instantly wipe out a person’s ‘soul’, traditions and customs that must be obeyed if you didn’t want to anger the gods .   Camorr is definitely a very textured place, a wonderful cesspool, if you will, of many cultures mingling together, with the feel of Venice predominating. One thing that really adds to the unique atmosphere of Camorr, is the wide and varying uses of Alchemy, which I thought Scott Lynch did a wonderful job in emphasizing. The presence of Alchemy, as the ‘magic’ of Camorr, gave the whole story a different feel – kind of juxtaposing the Middle Ages and the Victorian Ages together, with a dash of the ancient Greek or Persian civilization thrown in. You have to read it to know what I mean!

Oh, I laughed reguarly while reading this novel.  It’s just so smart and fun!

Here’s an excerpt:

‘Gods, I love this place,’ Locke said, drumming his fingers against his thighs. ‘Sometimes I think this whole city was put here simply because the gods must adore crime. Pickpockets rob the common folk, merchants rob anyone they can dupe, Capa Barsavi robs the robbers and the common folk, the lesser nobles rob nearly everyone, and Duke Nicovante occasionally runs off with his army and robs the s**t out of Tal Verrar or Jerem, not to mention what he does to his own nobles and his common folk.’
‘So that makes us robbers of robbers,’ said Bug, ‘who pretend to be robbers working for a robber of other robbers.’
‘Yes, we do sort of screw the pretty picture up, don’t we?’ Locke thought for a few seconds, clicking his tongue against the insides of his cheeks. ‘Think of what we do as, ah, a sort of secret tax on nobles with more money than prudence.’
I thought that was great. And it sort of gives you a taste of what to expect from this novel.
Despite the often tongue-in-cheek humor, the novel has it’s moments of intensity. As a reader, you’ll be thrown from one sphere of emotion to the next, but trust Scott Lynch! He won’t let you down! The end of the novel is magnificently orchestrated.
After writing the above review, look at what I found!
It’s a map of Camorr!
EDIT: Here‘s a funny, witty review of this very book by the wonderful Fyrefly!

Rating: 4.5/5 Wraithstones

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10 comments

  1. I remember now that you liked MWT; The Magic Thief, by S.P., (in case you haven’t read that one) is for slighty younger readers than us but very engaging none the less!

  2. Sounds excellent! Oh where would we be without thief books – and I haven’t read a good one since Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner books.

  3. I really want to read this now. I added it to my wishlist a while ago after reading another review (I think it was Fyrefly’s) but I had sort of forgotten about it. So thanks 😛

  4. Nymeth-I saw Firefly’s great review of it right after I posted mine, too! Her’s is so amusing and funny to read – she definitely captured the “fun-ness” of the novel! I definitely recommend you get your hands on it!
    Jenny-That’s one series that I have to read! I read Lynn Flewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin and the rest of the books in that series, and I remember going to her website and finding that she had already written other series – ripe for the reading!
    Charlotte-It’s true, I’m reading so many thief-related books! I’m always up for more! I’ve read my share of books for ‘younger readers’ and many times have found them just as enjoyable! I’ll definitely pick The Magic Thief up if I have the chance!

  5. After this wonderful review, I’ll have to pick it up out of my TBR. So many books and so little time! 😉

  6. Hi, Sharry, I really like your review, it’s so much better than mine: I was so anxious not to put too many spoilers in it that it ended up much too short, and I think yours does better justice to the book.

    I can’t help smiling at the fact that the rude language “threw you off”, but maybe as a French girl, I’m not easily shocked by a few f-words, even a string of them put together in colourful expressions… Although, you did write your comment in French: is English your mother tongue?

    Did you read Red Seas Under Red Skies as well? If not, I warmly recommand it, it’s also very good, maybe just less… incredibly original, since we’ve read already volume 1. But I was so happy meeting these characters again!

  7. Syracuse Cat – I haven’t read Red Seas Under Red Skies just yet, but I do have it in my book pile! Haha, the swearing in it was only a minor thing (I had to put that in, in case there are younger readers out there) but it definitely didn’t detract from the story – it only put me off because I’m not used to reading it so blatantly. Sometimes it was so foul it was hilariously amusing! =) English is my first language, but I’ve learned french throughout the years, so I like to practice it when I can (though, I’m a bit rusty)! I will definitely read on in the series, if only to find out what this big secret with Sabetha is all about (I suspected Scott Lynch left it out on purpose to make people wonder and keep reading, if only to find out!) I, too, enjoyed how Scott Lynch sort of weaves her character into Locke’s history with subtlety, yet bringing it up often enough to prick your attention. Thanks for stopping by! I really enjoyed reading your wonderfully written review myself!

  8. Thanks a lot, Sharry! I’m really looking forwards to reading Republic of Thieves: it’s supposed to come out on January 2010, I can’t wait!
    I really like your blog, by the way!

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