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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In the two and a half years that this journal has existed, I've only reviewed one true example of high fantasy: The Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I first read a fantasy novel when I was in eighth grade and a friend of mine recommended the first in the Dragonlance series and I promptly fell in love with the ideas of knights, dragons, and dragons. The problem with high fantasy, however, is that authors get trapped in the traditional tropes of the genre and the writing quickly becomes stale. In high school, I read the first three Sword of Truth books and gave up because they were repetitive and became dull; in college, it was the first three Wheel of Time books. I feared that The Lies of Locke Lamora would be much in the same, but I was craving a fantasy fix and decided it was worth a try.

The story centers around Locke Lamora, an orphan and talented thief who is raised up to be the greatest con artist in the history of Camorr. Along with the other Gentleman Bastards--a merry band of thieves who are more brothers than friends -- he steals from the rich not for the prestige but for the challenge and the fun of it all. The time for fun and games ends, however, when a man called the Grey King begins killing those who run the gangs of Camorr's seedy underbelly, and suddenly Locke and his Gentlemen Bastards are trapped between a spirited game of con artistry from one of the city's many Dons...and a dark game of survival against the Grey King himself.

Remember how I said I was worried about this book being repetitive and dull?

Yeah, I was completely wrong.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is almost like a fantasy version of Leverage. Locke's reasons for stealing aren't for pure gain, the thieves are good, and moreover, the thieves are bloody brilliant. I've always loved a good heist story and somehow, Lynch manages to take the concept--something I've never really seen done well outside of visual media--and turn it into a brilliant, well-paced, thoughtful novel.

Lynch's writing is brilliant. He paces the story in such a way that you are aware of twists after the characters are, and he reveals only what he wants to reveal at his own pace. I have to admit to having absolutely no idea what the conclusion was going to be; he somehow managed to keep me guessing on every single plot point. There's a brilliant scene early in the book where he cons the reader into believing the same thing several characters believe, and trust me: when he revealed what he'd done two chapters later, I was floored. There are great, well-woven moments like that throughout the book.

The world is part Italy, part France, and there are so many elements of our world that slip in here and there that I was completely immersed. I think it's hard to create a world that balances so finely on high fantasy and too-high fantasy, and Lynch did it perfectly. I know it's weird to say, but one of my favorite elements was that the characters used modern language throughout. "Shit" and "fuck" were dropped by the right characters at the right times and it felt absolutely natural. No need to create ridiculous, lofty language here. The honesty was absolutely spot-on.

I think that's why this book caught me so: everything was spot-on. I never got the feeling of pulled punches or wariness over creative choices. The book ran its course, the characters did as the characters would, and it felt completely authentic. I've never been so sucked into the ambiance, the personality, and just the simple charm of a fantasy book the way I was by The Lies of Locke Lamora. I could go on for hours about the likable characters (Jean Tannen is my new literary boyfriend), the clever melding of fantasy and realism (the Bondsmage was the perfect magic-user for this world), the moments that were laugh-out-loud funny and the moments that brought me near to tears, but it would only be a fangirl squealing in the dark.

Instead, I will just end as so:

READ THIS BOOK.

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buecherwald
the forest-dweller

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