Ahoy there me mateys! So this book and me have a checkered past. All me crew was aghast that I had never read this book. Seems like every cutthroat, scalawag, and tongue-wagger on the seven seas thought the Gentlemen Bastards were fine fellows to fancy. Me first mate even suggested this one and was confused by me strong negative reaction. It was only good reflexes that caused me cutlass to miss his tiny black heart. I tried multiple times to read this and threw me ‘ands up in disgust at the unnecessary hubbub. I may even have originally rated this 2 stars on Goodreads despite having abandoned ship. So what caused the winds to shift in me reckoning? Michael Page the answer be.
Who is Michael Page? Apparently one of the best audio book narrators that ever lived! Fie to any of me crew who doesn’t recognize his brilliance. I found the audio book by chance in a local library and it happened to be the only thing available to me at the time. Mehaps that be due to its 21 hour and 59 minute length? Well all I had was time so I decided that it was better to listen to this book than the drunken warblin’ of the crew singing off key. And then I slowly learned what all the fuss be about thanks to Michael Page’s magnificent voice at 2x the speed.
First of all, the world-building is exquisite. The city of Camorr reminds me of an even dirtier, more vicious Venenzia. My how I love that port. Camorr has a late medieval kinda feel with 13 gods and their respective priesthoods, a bondmage’s guild, an underground crime organization, a Duke, and other respective city-states. Add in lots of ships (Arrr!), islands, treacherous bridges, drafty hovels, mud, stench, and canals. Overall Camorr is a dank, dark, miserable city.
Ah, but what fun can be had. Revenge, cons, close calls, giant man-eating sharks, magic, fights to the death, and above all trickery. And goodness, but can the Gentlemen Bastards play the game. Because this gang doesn’t have yer ordinary layabout petty thieves. Oh no. These men are educated, crafty, tenacious, and always after the big prizes.
While the world-building got me interested, the characters and the con kept me listening. Locke Lamora may think he is more intelligent than everyone but his smart mouth and smarter plots made me root for him. Then add in the rest of the gang – the fighter, Jean Tannen; the jack-of-all-trades, twins Calo and Galdo Sanza; and Bug, their young apprentice. The side characters like the shark fighting sisters, the merchant Don Lorenzo Salvara and his wife, the priest Father Chains are also well drawn and wonderful. Part of the story is also told in flashbacks which add to the flavour and give further history of the city and background to how characters’ lives evolved.
And the glorious ending. I was very satisfied with this book and will be readin’ the next. The minor quibble is the slow intro that initially led me to abandon ship and that there are sections that seem to drag with either mundane details or not much action. But thanks be to the glorious Michael Page for making me realize the true craft of the novel. And much thanks to Scott Lynch for writing it.
If ye be one of the two crew members who haven’t read this book for somesuch boneheaded reason then pick this one up. Because as me matey, Mogsy @ thebibliosanctum says:
The Lies of Locke Lamora is like Oliver Twist meets Oceans 11 meets The Godfather — or at least that’s how it starts off. Once the setting and the world and the characters establish themselves, however, that’s when story begins to takes on a personality of its own.
Indeed, looking back now, it does feel to me like there was a stark difference between the first few chapters and the last half of the novel. The beginning reads like a dark drama, chronicling the life of an orphan who likes to steal, in a writing style that’s almost poetic. I loved this part.
On the other hand, the rest of the novel — with its gang wars and theme of vengeance — reads more like an action-adventure thriller, complete with the appropriate levels of blood, violence and profanity…and guess what? I loved that part too.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
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