No fantasy debut received this much hype on this side of the Atlantic Ocean since the release of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule. Indeed, we've been hearing about Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora for months now. Rave reviews abound, generating the sort of buzz authors and editors can only fantasize about.
Unfortunately, too much hype can also raise expectations to a level where readers' disappointment becomes inevitable. Aware of that particular fact, I wished to remain purely objective when I began to read this novel. It's been hailed as the best debut ever, after all.
And to ascertain that readers will not rush to buy this one based on the wrong idea, here is what The Lies of Locke Lamora is not: A grand fantasy epic vast in scope, the likes of which Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson produce. There are no philosophical and spiritual dimensions such as can be found in the works of R. Scott Bakker. There is no subtle human touch such as can be glimpsed in books by Robin Hobb and L. E. Modesitt, jr.
What The Lies of Locke Lamora is, however, is one ripping good yarn! In an interview, Lynch claimed that he wanted the novel to be "kick-you-in-the-ass fun." Well, it certainly is just that! If you're looking for something that will move you and stir your soul, look elsewhere. This one is an imaginative and convoluted caper. And as such, this fun-filled ensemble of adventures and misadventures is sure to breathe new life into the genre.
The book is no worldbuilding galore. Far from it, actually. The action mostly takes place in a single city, Camorr. Yet one must give Scott Lynch credit for creating a living and breathing Venice-like locale. With flair and an unmistakable eye for details, the author's narrative evokes arresting imagery. Hence, although we haven't seen much in terms of worldbuilding, several things hint at more depth to this universe than what is perceptible at face value. Which bodes well for the upcoming volumes of the seven-book cycle that will be The Gentlemen Bastards.
The characterizations are above and beyond what is currently the norm in today's market. With Locke Lamora, Lynch has created an immediate superstar. As you keep turning those pages, it's pretty hard not to find him endearing. A roguish thief and con artist, Locke is the heart and soul of this tale. Having said that, the rest of the cast are interesting in their own right, especially the other members of the Gentlemen Bastards. Scott Lynch truly has the knack for characterizations. Thus, The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely a character-driven novel.
I was a bit put off by the dialogues, I must admit. Written in contemporary fashion, there are obscenities and profanities at every turn. The "f" word finds a way to surface on nearly every page, or so it seems. Yet one must keep in mind the characters' background as members of Camorr's underworld. Still, I believe that it was a bit overdone. If one can look past that, however, Scott Lynch's prose is impressive. Honestly, it's far better than one can expect from most fantasy books, let alone a debut.
The pace is just perfect. A fan of the genre, Lynch knows how to keep readers turning those pages to see what happens next!
Mark this novel for the boys' club, though. Something tells me that female readers will not get into it as much as the men. Just a hunch, nothing I can put my finger on. . .
In my opinion, the biggest quality about The Lies of Locke Lamora is its accessibility. Since basically anyone can get a kick out of a well-executed caper, this book promises to find many disparate fans. Moreover, this is the sort of tale which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. As such, it will undoubtedly make a lot of noise in the weeks/months to come. The sequel, Red Seas under Red Skies will be released in January 2007, which should maintain a high level of interest among readers.
My advice to potential readers: Forget the hype. Don't buy this book thinking that it will awe you and blow your mind. Scott Lynch said he wanted to write something that would have people saying "oh cool!" as often as possible. And it's mission accomplished. This novel is a very entertaining read, to be sure.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is a complete joyride strewn with a remarkable number of corpses (he did mention George R. R. Martin as an inspiration, after all!). And if he keeps up the good work, Lynch will rapidly establish himself as one of the major players in the fantasy genre. I'm eager to sink my teeth into the sequel. . .
The final verdict: 8/10
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