Book review: The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott LynchApril 4th, 2010 by Iona
Locke Lamora is a Gentleman Bastard. So is this book, on the whole: on the one hand, there is the Tolkienesque worldbuilding, the ancient mythical race, the ancient high-fantastical city and on the other hand, there is the unexpected dialogue, which is all piss and vinegar and people saying fuck, shit and arse. Together they make a kind of alchemical steampunk, a believable mess of well-though through fantasy and likeable, engaging characters.
The plot, let’s be clear – it’s a heist movie. Locke Lamora is a thief, his gang of Gentleman Bastards are thieves. They steal from the rich and they don’t give to the poor. Their schemes to get rich are complex confidence tricks, and the joy the author must have taken in thinking them up shines through the pages, and rollicks the story through the first few hundred pages – after that the novel darkens and the body count rises, and it becomes less likeable, but no less good a novel. The main plot is interspersed with interludes from the main characters’ backstories and details about the world in which they live, and while I think the placement and distribution of these is clumsy, they’re enjoyable for all that.
There are the usual first-novel flaws – sometimes the prose is too flowery, sometimes the dialogue is wooden or could be easily elided – but in my mind, the greatest issue with this book is its distinct lack of female characters. There basically aren’t any of note – there is a woman who never appears but conveniently exists for Locke to pine over, there is another woman who makes a couple of token appearances before being summarily killed in aid of male character development, there’s another who is the usual fantasy-world prostitute. The situation improves slightly as the novel progresses – it even passes the Bechdel test, a mere ten pages from the end – but generally it does read a little like boys’ own fantasy in this regard, which is offputting.
But – it’s fun. And I shall read the next one with interest.