60. The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch - 544 pages (9.5/10)
This is one of my new favourite fantasy series. It's orignal. It's well-written. It's brash. It's cheeky. It's a good, fun romp. It's a series I would recommend in the same breath as the Farseer series by Robin Hobb or A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Yes, I liked it that much.
This novel is set in Camorr, a city based loosely on Venice, but with a more...tropical, Mediterranean vibe? There are waterways and a shifting Floating Market. People fight giant feral sharks for sport, eat sharks, and wear shark leather. Ancient, indestructable glass structures from a civilzation before this one twines through the city, and usually the rich have taken them over and reside in them. The atmosphere of Camorr is tangible, vibrant, and alive. The food and drink is exotic and spicy, the clothes flashy, and the people varied. It's unlike any other setting I've read in fantasy before, and I've read hundreds of fantasy books.
Camorr has a Secret Peace between the Duke and the Capa (gang leader of the criminal underbelly of Camorr). The Duke made an agreement that the Capa can steal, but not from the nobility. Thus, the rich are meant to stay as rich as they possibly can be by birth and business adventures, whereas those who fight for their wealth are much more liable to use it. Until Locke Lamora.
Locke Lamora is a Gentleman Bastard and uses his learning to make disguises to dupe the nobility into parting with their coin. He's an anti-hero, an orphan-turned-thief who is raised by an old Father Chains along with twins Calo, Galdo, the young Bug, and an oprhaned merchant-born boy, Jean Tannen. Their ploys are elaborate and nothing like anything I would have been able to think up. I really like the fact that while I love reading about them, I disagree with their morals. I think they are wrong, but I like them anyway.
The narrative style of this novel is interesting. It has the main story arc of Locke Lamora as a thief come into his own, leading the Gentleman Bastards. Yet it also has periodic flashbacks to his youth where he causes all sorts of trouble and slowly and stubbornly turns from an urchin to a cultured, clever thief. The reader also follows Jean Tannen's transformation from grief-stricken merchant boy to deadly fighter in a garden of glass roses. Magnificent.
I have a few nitpicks about the book, but not many. Sometimes Lynch goes overmuch into the detail of his world. It's obvious he's spent absolutely ages developing this world, but sometimes he shares more about it that need be. I found myself occasionally skimming the exposition to get back to the action of Locke and his compatriots. The Grey king, the antagonist, is a little lame, to be honest. He's only badass because he hires help, and his main motivation is convincing but isn't the most original. He's a good dramatic foil for Locke, but that's about it.
In general, though, this is an excellent series. My husband describes it as "hardboiled fantasy," and I agree with that term, even though the criminals are the protagonists. I heartily recommend cracking the spine to the world of Camorr.