Next up: “The Lies of Locke Lamora”, “Red Seas Under Red Skies”, and “The Republic of Thieves” by Scott Lynch.
This is one of my favorite series. It’s one that I suggest to most of my book-nerd friends. I got my husband absolutely hooked, and together we’ve given away more than a dozen copies of the first book. We’ve also met the author several times, and he’s a great guy, very funny and kind. I have great admiration for him and his work.
There are currently three books, with more forthcoming.
The series is pretty epic in scope, involving diverse characters in an expansive and vibrantly realized world. The books revolve mostly around a core group, ‘lead’ by the titular Locke Lamora. Locke and his band are thieves of the highest caliber. Each book’s plot involves some form of crime and is a wild and fascinating adventure.
The first book “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is an elaborate heist story with many smaller heists woven into it. The plot is broken up into ‘current’ events and the past, in which we see child Locke’s introduction to his crew and profession. An orphan, Locke is taken under the wing of Father Chains, a priest of the Crooked Warden (god of thieves). Locke eventually becomes the leader of his group of fellow acolytes, the mastermind behind their elaborate burglaries.
Like all thieves in Camorr, Locke and his Gentleman Bastards pay tribute to the godfather-like figure of Capa Barsavi. But Locke’s playing the long game– though he pays a tribute, it is a sham. Capa Barsavi thinks he and his friends are small-time crooks, never suspecting that they are more clever and more capable than they let on. In fact, Locke and the Bastards are the elusive and prodigious Thorn of Camorr, a near legendary thief.
Someone knows their secret, however. The newcomer who calls himself The Gray King, a man who is threatening Capa Barsavi’s rule with lethal competency. The Gray King embroils the Gentleman Bastards in his plan, using them to further his own ambitions. But his plans mean the destruction of the system and the society that the Bastards profit from, and the death of the things that they value. Disadvantaged, the Bastards have to pull of perhaps their greatest con of all and win at the Gray King’s own game.
As I said, this is one of my favorite series. The writing is tight, the world-building elaborate, and the plot masterful. Not one second of storytelling is wasted; it all serves a purpose. The start of the first book is a little slow, but as more storytelling elements begin to be woven in, it picks up speed and starts rolling like a out-of-control train. The second book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, which made waiting for “Republic of Thieves” an agony… And I spent pretty much the last few pages of the third book saying ‘oh shit’ over and over in ever-increasing pitch.
The supporting characters in each book are really well developed despite being supporting. They are not two-dimensional at all, and occasionally steal the show (as with Zamira Drakasha, the middle-aged black woman pirate of the second book…such a badass). The chemistry between the characters is so good, and dialogue rambles and gambols delightfully. I can’t think of any instances when dialogue, or plot, seemed forced.
The world-building is great and vivid and diverse. There are a lot of different sorts of people in the world of the Gentleman Bastards. The first book’s setting of Camorr is sort of like a fantasy Venice. The second takes place mostly at sea, and the third takes place in a different country than any we’ve previously seen. We also glimpse other lands in the text. The cast is diverse, with people of different races and orientations making appearances (though admittedly the main character is essentially Locke, a straight white guy). Individuals of other races or orientations don’t feel ‘token’; they are simply humans populating a diverse world.
I really like that Locke can’t fight at all. He’s absolute shit at fighting, unlike so many other ‘fantasy/adventure’ novels where the main character can– even if they’re supposed to be small and weak, they usually then are virtuosos with knives. Locke’s all brains and no brawn. His only hope in a fight is to run away before it starts, or pray that one of his friends is nearby to save his skinny butt. It changes the way conflict is dealt with in the plot.
LOTS of swearing and violence. The Gentleman Bastards live rough and tumble lives, guys.