The Con of All Cons || The Lies of Locke Lamora Review

Initial Thoughts:

I started this book in the middle of my rewatch of the entire White Collar series, which is pretty much all about con men with hearts of gold. Kind of like Locke and his Gentlemen Bastards. I ended this book after having watched another series dealing with grifters (WHAT IS THIS PATTERN?!), but it says a lot about me that I still enjoyed this entire story, even when it escalated to a bloody, gruesome heist. Also, Locke Lamora is a Trickster God in the flesh. I cannot deal!


by Scott Lynch
Del Rey, June 2013
Epic fantasy, adventure
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a ghost that walks through walls. Half the city believes him to be a legendary champion of the poor. The other half believe him to be a foolish myth. Nobody has it quite right.

Slightly built, unlucky in love, and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. He certainly didn’t invite the rumors that swirl around his exploits, which are actually confidence games of the most intricate sort. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else, pray tell, would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny of it. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards.

Locke and company are con artists in an age where con artistry, as we understand it, is a new and unknown style of crime. The less attention anyone pays to them, the better! But a deadly mystery has begun to haunt the ancient city of Camorr, and a clandestine war is threatening to tear the city’s underworld, the only home the Gentlemen Bastards have ever known, to bloody shreds. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends will find both their loyalty and their ingenuity tested to the breaking point as they struggle to stay alive…

Who doesn’t love a good heist story?

I don’t know if it’s just been the mood of the season or what, but I’ve been pretty much bingeing every heist story I’ve come across. I blame my latest re-watch of White Collar to have set me off, because then it went from there to Impostors, to replaying parts of Persona 5 Royal, to re-watching random episodes of Leverage and then reading Lies of Locke Lamora, and then reading The Mask of Mirrors (which is also another heist book due out this month…which I shall write a review for once I’m done!). And now I’m getting into the show Lupin, which is fantastic.

So yeah, call it a heist-related obsession, but I don’t think I could have re-entered the epic fantasy reading game with a better book.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is what Ocean’s 11 would have been if it was played out in a medieval Venetian fantasy world where alchemy and magic exist, and an entire thieving underworld rule the streets almost as much as a duke does. We see the story play out in two major divisions: flashbacks and the present time. It follows Locke Lamora, a disreputable fellow with grand plans and a skill for surviving–just barely. He has a gift for the art of thievery, and he is such a skilled grifter that he is able to fool just about anyone who he is trying to fool, including the kingpin of Camorr’s underworld. Locke and his band of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards, keep matters on the down-low, and any grift they run tend to be discreet and heavily planned beforehand.

Alas, things are changing in Camorr, and Locke and his Bastards get involve in a revenge coup. On top of that, the Thorn of Camor–Locke Lamora himself–has the Spider’s (chief of the duke’s secret police) undivided attention, and unfortunately, that means a lot of people are going after Locke, unbeknownst to him…

For a time after that, everything was serene.

Then, barely six months after he arrived at the hill, Locke accidentally burned down the Elderglass Vine tavern and precipitated a quarantine riot that very nearly wiped the Narrows from the map of Camorr.

This was a fun ride. Mostly because Locke happens to be a fun person.

“Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, 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. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

“Oh, please,” said Locke, “It’ll never happen.”

Well, okay, perhaps fun isn’t exactly the right word to describe Locke Lamora.

“The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games–”

“–is Locke Lamora–”

“–because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons–”

“–and fifty thousand cheering spectators.”

I think the Sanza twins say it the best, to be honest.

Seriously, though, I enjoyed getting to know the characters in the book. The buildup of the Gentlemen Bastards’ game was intense. I kept flipping the page thinking things couldn’t get any crazier, but then the next development comes in, and that blows my entire perspective to smithereens. There were a lot of things happening here, and Locke doesn’t exactly play it simple; when he plans a scheme, you can bet it’s going to be elaborate as heck. And bless the characters that go along with his madness, because they know exactly what they’re getting into, but as a family, the Gentlemen Bastards stick together like glue.

And boy, the characters in the book were lovely. I enjoyed the quips from the Sanzas, and I loved the refreshing naivete of Bug. I absolutely loved Jean Tannen, the rough and tough muscle of the group, whose skill with his twin axes match his skill with numbers. I even loved Father Chains, the “blind” priest of Perelandro, the mentor that Locke needed in his very impressionable years.

“We’re a new sort of thief here, Locke. What we are is actors. False-facers…When I’m finished, the things you four will pull…well, they’ll make my little scam with this temple look simple and unambitious.”

Also, what is an epic fantasy story without some really good worldbuilding? Camorr seems to be inspired by Venice, a state run by Duke Nicovante. The city is broken up into islands connected through bridges, though the major form of intra-city travel tends to be by boats down the channels. There is a lot of description that gives the city a ton of flavor, especially since most of the details paint Camorr to be a nitty, gritty Venice, one where criminals rule most of the islands, and the nobles mostly live it up near the Duke’s glass tower. There is a house which hosts carnivorous roses that make things creepy and interesting at the same time. There are numerous temples that house worshipers of different gods. There is one particular temple that houses more than priests of Perelandro. There are some traditions that jump out, particularly the magic in the world produced exclusively by Bondsmages, with minor showings of alchemists and black alchemists, but the other thing that really jumped out to me was the barbaric Teeth Show.

Other cities have gladiatorial games; other cities pit men against animals. But only in Camorr can you see a specially armed gladiator (a contrarequialla) battle a live, leaping shark, and in Camorr only women are allowed by tradition to be contrarequialla.

This is the Teeth Show.

With the way things turn out in the book, I’m curious to see what else of the world there is outside of Camorr. I’m curious if Bondsmages make a return, or if magic in general gets a bigger role in a game for thieves. I’m really curious how Locke’s going to mess up even more magnificently than he did in this first book! Honestly, I miss the grifting antics of Locke already. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have a copy of the next book! (I was silly and actually have a copy of The Republic of Thieves, but not Red Seas Under Red Skies, which is apparently the second book?)
5 out of 5 cookies! Warning: Don’t get too attached to characters like I did. You’ll end up in a world of hurt…but then again, where’s the fun if you didn’t get attached, amiright?

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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