The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards), by Scott Lynch
It’s interesting the things we hate in real life and cherish in fiction. The thief is one example. We hate being robbed, but we do admire a clever thief … as least one in fiction. The more ingenious the more we love them. Add a selective thief with a moral center and you’ve created a favorite hero.
Scott Lynch has created a noble thief in Locke Lamora. An orphan abducted off the streets of Camorr by “the thief-maker” he’s then sold to a Fagin-like character, an eyeless priest named Chains. There, with other apprentices, he’s trained in the subtleties of theft. Because of his skill Locke becomes the leader of a small group calling themselves the Gentleman Bastards.
Chains has a unique approach to his training, teaching his apprentices to pay attention to the work of others as an approach to going in disguise, to take religious orders, and to learn to mingle with upper levels of society.
As he reaches adulthood the story focuses on an elaborate con-game being run by the Gentleman Bastards … a con not entirely unlike the email scam of “I’ll put millions in your account but first you’ll need to invest $1000 to cover some expenses.” As the scheme develops the narrative turns back to Locke’s apprenticeship and the things he learned and experienced along the way.
It’s a fun book with wonderful characters who all have unique humor. But what’s most appealing about the book is the beautiful language Lynch uses throughout the book. Places and people are lovingly described and the whole book floats on an elevated language that reads not like the stilted quasi-medieval prose of similar books but with a true love for words.
At the same time it’s a wonderful adventure story, making you try to hope the main character out of danger to the last few pages. As genre fiction goes this is about as finely crafted as any you’ll ever read. If your book tastes run in this direction this is one you will not want to miss.