Review : The Lies Of Locke Lamora

My twitter followers would know how exited I was while reading this novel. I can hardly acknowledge the fact that it is a debut. Spanning two story lines, including themes of fantasy, revenge, survival, friendship and never-ending quest for conniving, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an on-the-edge thriller.

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The story follows a group of young adults who call themselves ‘Gentleman Bastards’. Don’t cringe, the book is littered with swear words, and while many reviewers feel a distaste towards this or are downright offended, I don’t have any issue with it. Heck! if Tarantino and Scorsese can use a thousand cuss words in a two hour cinema this is a minuscule issue to be discussed. 

Locke – a nimble boy with huge self-confidence that margins on over-confidence that which gets him into trouble time and again,

Calo/Galdo – twins,

Jean-the fat, powerful  fighter,

Bug – Young, best in crawling over the roofs for recon purposes,

constitute the group of Gentleman Bastards. Led by the ‘Eyeless priest’- Father Chains, the Bastards collude against the affluent acting as con-artists in robbing off their riches. Set in Fantasy-counterpart Venice, the city of Camorr. 

Camorr

 A city is deeply entrenched with sadistic and filthy lives. It is a place where brutality and beauty co-exist. Double-games and secret collusions, characters who come back from the dead with sole aim to act on revenge, the book is filled with pulp’ish characters and action.

Camorr closely resembles the modern day Venice, being composed of a multitude of islands intersected by canals, dotted it is with the archaeological remains of the Eldren, a lost and inhuman civilization. The striking feature are the five Elderglass towers, homes of the city’s greatest families, including the Duke himself, and the Shifting Revel-Camorr’s equivalent of the coliseum. It would be true to say that Scott Lynch’s greatest achievement is the vivid and grandiose realization of this world which, although brilliantly observed, is difficult to capture with short quotes. Take this description of the House of Glass Roses, however, as a short example:

 In the House of Glass Roses, there was a hungry garden. The place was Camorr in microcosm; a thing of the Eldren left behind for men to puzzle over, a dangerous treasure discarded like a toy. . . . Here was an entire rose garden, wall after wall of perfect petals and stems and thorns, silent and scentless and alive with reflected fire, for it was all carved from Elderglass, a hundred thousand blossoms perfect down to the tiniest thorn. . . . And it was flawless, as flawless as the rumours claimed, as though the Eldren had frozen every blossom and every bush in an instant of summer’s fullest perfection.

Non-linear approach

The story overlaps between the present and incidents from the Bastards’ past that loosely interject with it. Their formative years leading up to the present story is intertwined beautifully that the reader feels as if they are bystanders in the story as it happens.

Gist

The Bastards live a life of day to day earnings through robbery and connivance that fall outside the radar of the feudal lord of Camorr – Capa Barsavi. With no notice comes a mysterious Grey king who takes down each one of Capa’s men. The stakes rise when Lamora and his group are pulled in the middle of the war between Capa and the Grey King, to a level which he is not prepared.

Lynch’s hold on the story is so good that the reader, with the knowledge of villainy of the Capa, takes sides with him for a while and after devouring a few chapters takes stance against him. Changing shades, shifting morals, wavering alliances and at the last, an engrossing and deeply moving tale of survival at all cost is what that makes this book the best I’ve read in a while.

Women of Camorr

Lynch’s portrayal of women is different from most of his peers in that they are powerful, mentally strong and are equal in importance with the men. The author has never shown a tinge of being sexist and in fact makes it a point of prevailing equality between the sexes.

At one point the Capa says

“the women of Camorr could be underestimated only at great peril to one’s health”.

The woman for whom our hero falls far, with same powerful character like the rest, Sabetha gets thrown into the story here and there. I hope Scott Lynch plans to bring her back in subsequent stories.

All in all, a powerful and deeply moving debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a must read even if you are not a fan of fantasy. With fresh take on the genre the author has made his name echo along the walls of the greats like George R.R Martin and Robert Jordan. Alchemy, a slighter form of magic in the story passes into the heads of reader in transforming them into the story that will affect long after it gets over. Not to worry, the Author has signed up for seven books in the series.

 

My favorite quotes from the book :

“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”

“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.'”

“Gods, I love this place,” Locke said, drumming his fingers against his thighs. “Sometimes I think this whole city was put here simply because the gods must adore crime. Pickpockets rob the common folk, merchants rob anyone they can dupe, Capa Barsavi robs the robbers and the common folk, the lesser nobles rob nearly everyone, and Duke Nicovante occasionally runs off with his army and robs the shit out of Tal Verarr or Jerem, not to mention what he does to his own nobles and his common folk.”

“I can’t wait to have words with the Gray King when this shit is all finished,” Locke whispered. “There’s a few things I want to ask him. Philosophical questions. Like, ‘How does it feel to be dangled out a window by a rope tied around your balls, motherfucker?”

Off to the second book – ‘Red seas under red skies’.

 

Book review : Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon kingdoms -1)

Genre : Fantasy

My Rating : ★★★★☆

Saladin Ahmed’s debut fiction, a Nebula award nominated work enthralls the reader from the word go. It follows a group of well-wishers of a kingdom fight against a great and powerful enemy that the main protagonist Adoulla a ghul hunter has never come across before. The novel, although it screams ‘Sword and Sorcery’ is in itself more than that. The book does have it’s share of sword fighting  blood and incidents that would make any brave soul cringe, but the portrayal  bequeaths from the genre-type to one that dwells to human meta-physical sense. It speaks about each member’s stance in face of hardship, their choices, their inner battles and the ill-fated bargains they do with negative emotions to reach their goal.

The other important characters are Adoulla’s dervish, Raseed bas Raseed, the tribeswoman and guard of her band, Zamia, an Alchemist and her husband who is Adoulla’s long time friend and the Falcon prince who strives to balance out the divide between the rich and the poor while plotting to kill the iron-fisted Khalif and rule the kingdom himself. The book is heavy on theism and Islamic connotations, which would do good to change the minds of the ignorant who have been brainwashed by fear-mongers to consider Islam being a religion of extremism. The book itself talks about extremist with hope and moderate with experience and calculated approach, and the chemistry between the doctor as the main-protagonist is referred as, and his young dervish is told in well structured manner.

The novel is filled with shape shifters, beautiful ornate castles, watethrone-mmpb1r ghuls, fire ghuls, bone ghuls, zombi like skin ghuls which can reform to totality from every shred it’s attackers tore it into, magicians, alchemists and even a part-shadow part-jackal man. The novel fails short in that the story is too straightforward and every story changing incidents end abruptly, but it succeeds in everything else, the buildup and the characterization. The words are decorated with beautiful explanations and Saladin takes our imagination into the city of Dhamsawaat, which is the setting of the book, with ease. I’d like to add I was put down from less view-of-the-plot from other members of the protagonist gang, perhaps the author liked Adoulla very much that he did less with the romance between the young dervish and the bandit fighter, that I’d have liked to read. And to save the best to last, it was highly refreshing to have a setting far from European Medieval into an Islamic world, where currency is counted in  dinars and dirhams, and you seek answers for the matters of your heart from the loved one kneeling before her placing your forehead on her feet.

The juxtaposition of youthful hope with raw talent and extreme ideals and experience of ages with cautions and calculated approach to every problem, the master and his student’s striking difference  lacquers every chapter of the story. If it has been just days since devouring some Joe Abercrombie or Patrick Rothfuss fast paced books, you might be in for some scour from the initial chapters, but once you get a hang of the writing, you are in for the thrill that is the conclusion where the pace picks up so much that I didn’t recognize the end of the book when it arrived.

Not to be missed, a book that stands by itself, great debut and first in a planned trilogy. The short 288 page fantasy book sticks to you far more than 600 pagers his peers put out every year.

Footnote : Once you are done with the book you should consider the prequel and Adoulla’s introduction in the short story Where Virtue Lives.