the Little Red Reviewer

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

Posted on: August 15, 2010

Scott Lynch turns me into a blabbering fan girl. Just so ya know.

that said, I’ve read his debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora maybe a half dozen times since it came out, and it’s friendly but not as stellar sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies almost as many times. I simply can not say enough good things about this man. Everything he writes, I want to read. So be warned when you read this review, I am a blathering, bumbling, blabbering fan girl. And yes, the first time I read this book it was from the library.  But I think I placed an order for it at my local indie bookstore before I even finished the book.

With the third book in the series, Republic of Thieves due out Februrary 17th, 2011, (excerpt available here) I figured it was time to pull out the review I wrote a few years ago of Locke Lamora. Re-reading the original review, there is very little I would change. So here goes.

 Adventure, swearing, stealing, lying . . . good guys, bad guys, crazy insane revenge obsessed lunatics, man eating sharks, magicians for hire (and damn expensive!), with dear, darling Locke Lamora at the center of it all. This is the best damn fun I’ve had all summer. I dutifully ignored all the hype that last year surrounded this book and it’s young, ambitious author (rumor has it he signed a 6 book deal). But who was I to argue when the heavy 700+ page book jumped off a shelf at the library and bonked me in the head?

Lynch throws us into the merchant city of Camorr, a densely populated fantasical Baroque-esque Venice, whose oldest structures are made of “Elderglass”, a glass like material left behind by an ancient race. Camorr is a beautiful city, filled with commerce, nobility, fashion, and crime. Locke Lamora leads the Gentlemen Bastards, one of 200 or more gangs that roam the city and answer to Capa Barsavi, the ringleader of the organized crime of the city. Capa Barsavi keeps his people from killing the Duke’s guard and stealing from the nobility (who are already stealing enough from each other), and the Duke’s Captain of Intelligence, The Spider, generally keeps the guard from killing the petty pickpockets, who are only stealing from the poor folk and the travelling merchants anyways.

But Locke Lamora is no mere pickpocket.  His adoptive father, Chains, trained him for a much higher calling. Something along the lines of conning the nobility out of as many crowns as possible, embarrassment keeping them from reporting to The Spider, and breaking the Capa’s rules right under his nose, as often as possible. With the help of extensive planning, elaborate costumes, a few fake accents and some well placed bribes, Lamora and his small crew steal thousands of crowns through the age old art of the con. And what stunts he pulls! While paying their tribute to Barsavi, they make Henry Gondorff and Danny Ocean look like amateurs.

It’s all fun and games at first for Lamora and is crew, with includes well read bruiser Jean, twins Calo and Galdo, and young Bug. The Gentlemen Bastards are always Gentlemen, they want your purse, but have no interest in your life, or your blood. But other gangs aren’t so polite. Along with the romance of the gentle con, Locke and his buddies get the crap kicked out of them more times than I can count, break ribs and noses, endure torturous enchantments, lest we forget that this is a dangerous game they play, with very real, and very permanent consequences.

Enter the Grey King. Mad for revenge, he’s out to off Barsavi and any loyal followers who won’t be convinced otherwise at the point of a sword. A master of blackmail, he soon has Locke Lamora under his heavy thumb. The Grey King is a brutal creation of Lynch’s, closely followed in scaryness only by his freaky shark baiting sisters and an insanely creepy bondsmage whose favorite way to torture you involves the use of your one true name. But who can afford to hire a bondsmage for that long? Locke is in over his head with the Grey King, and he knows it. The Grey King can beat him with a sword, with fists, with enchantments (and he does). He goes after his accidental fiance, his money, and most importantly, his friends. The Grey King has the power of hatred on his side, and Locke and the gents have never faced any fire this hot before. There is no witty comeback for someone who kill you as soon as look at you. This could be the biggest job of their lives, and it could be the last. Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, this is an incredibly violent book. Also, somewhat of a “boy book”, as in very few female characters. No romance, although Locke pines for a young woman we have yet to meet.

Lynch has written one helluva page turner, with near death for the Gents around every corner. The characters jump off the page, grab you by the shirt, and pull you back in with them. You will laugh and cry with them, and you will stand up to avenge their deaths. I could not put this book down, and I am telling everyone I know to read it. Everything feels real, everything feels deep and heavy, begging me me look into it in hopes of seeing my own reflection. Yes, these boys are thieves and con artists. They are breaking the law, hurting people, stealing money. But it’s done with such panache, such style, how can you not like it? Lynch keeps most of the action rather light, full of snarky dialogue and wit. Through the use of flahsbacks and interludes, he lets us in on the secrets of Locke’s youth, and the elegant culture of Camorr, along with its strange traditions and festival games (“Teeth Show”, anyone?). You know those books where the flackbacks are just an excuse to infodump? This isn’t one of those. Everything in The Lies of Locke Lamora  works, and it works smooth – worldbuilding, characterization, dialogue, pacing, everything.  Lynch is a force to be reckoned with.

just go read it. oh, and if you’re one of those folks, like myself, who is heavily influenced by the style of what they read, you may want to be careful. Lynch will show you ever possible use of the word &^$% (believe it or not, the novelty never wore off), none of which are ever, ever appropriate in polite company.

11 Responses to "The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch"

[…] review that you’ve written in the past few months.  That’s a toughy, there’s The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. . . and a handful of other […]


Awesome review! I’ve not heard of this before but you pretty much captured my interest in the first ten or so words lol. Okay it was probably actually “bad guys” that did it, hehe. Adding to my wishlist right now.


This is one of my absolute favourite books, and I was grinning like a fool all throughout your brilliant, blabbering, fangirly review, because I know exactly how you feel. The book had me at “Have I got a deal for you!” and didn’t let go, even after the last page was turned. The story, the characters, the world, even the violence and the swearing is so well done that I felt I was right there in Camorr (I don’t recall ever experiencing vertigo from a book before, but that’s how vivid the writing is). Locke Lamora is quite possibly the best character ever, and I love him with all my heart. And I never could resist a good con.

I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I will before Republic of Thieves comes out (if it doesn’t get pushed back again – sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever see the end of this series). I might even have to read Lies again – oh, such a chore.

Thanks for reminding me of the awesomeness that is Locke Lamora. I’m a proud new subscriber of your blog, so now I’m off to explore.


Alright! another obsessed fan! I do need to get a review of Red Seas up one of these days. . .

I can only hope that excerpts of Thieves floating around the internet mean the release date is firm.


That sounds like a lot of fun…it’s already on my wishlist, but this was a great review to read. Thanks!


[…] I’m not embarrassed to admit this man turns me into a blabbering, blubbering, squeeing fangirl. And is that not some stunning cover art for the third title in his Gentlemen Bastard series? […]


[…] Gentleman Bastard series. I suggest reading my review of the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora here, and a little more about my love for Scott Lynch […]


I loved this book – I do have number two but not yet read it – waiting for a good review to provoke me I suppose… got to go and check out what you have to say about Red seas…….


[…] some more revenge, and an itty bitty teeny weeny bit of romance.  The first book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, introduces us to the title character, Locke. We learn of his misspent youth, his training with […]


[…] of stories with more imagination and twists and turns than you can count, The Lies of Locke Lamora (review) and Red Seas Under Red Skies (review) are more than worth your time and […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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