This impressive debut fantasy novel does not quite rise to the literary greatness of The Name of the Wind
or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
, but Scott Lynch is still better than most fantasy authors his first time out. The Lies of Locke Lamora
is about the title character, Locke Lamora, an orphan who grew up, Oliver Twist-style, on the hard streets of Camorr mentored by a priest who is actually the leader of a band of thieves. "Father Chains" is father figure to the Gentleman Bastards, who become the most daring thieving crew in the city.
Basically, this is the book for you if you like fantasy with a gritty edge, thieves' capers, and roguish antiheroes. The Gentleman Bastards devise a scheme to rip off the city's nobles for a large fortune. Thanks to Locke's brains and disguise abilities, the caper is going just fine as they milk their marks dry, until they find themselves in the middle of a war for control of the city's underworld, the Duke's spymaster is put on the trail of the Gentleman Bastards, and Locke and his friends find themselves caught in an ever-changing web of double-crosses, betrayals, deceptions, and schemes by multiple parties.
At every turn, the Gentleman Bastards' situation gets worse, Locke finds a way out of it, and then things get even worse. I was very impressed by Lynch's ability to keep turning the screws while keeping the plot moving and never inserting any deux ex machinas or relying too much on improbable coincidence. The pieces of the plot all fit together from start to finish, and every character in the large cast behaved according to their role. Not every character was fully fleshed out, but the protagonists and their chief adversaries were. The worldbuilding was detailed but not belabored, and the little infodumping that was done added color. Lynch's writing does rely a bit too much on random f-bombs and occasional gratuitously grimy details, but he manages to keep from overdoing it, and there's actually (surprisingly) not that much sex and only a few deaths.
The ending wraps things up nicely while still setting our crew up for a sequel. Well done, Mr. Lynch, this book had me entertained from start to finish, never bored or grinding my teeth, and wanting to read your follow-up novel.