4.5 out of 5 stars
A magnificently rollicking, heisting, conning, scheming, and hilarious series featuring one of the most enjoyable casts of characters I’ve ever read.
From his days as a young child orphan in Camorr, Locke Lamora was always too clever. His Dickensian tale begins when he’s taken in by the ruthless leader of a gang of thieving youths, only to be passed on to the much nicer leader of a different gang of thieving youths. They grow up, learn every trick in the book, and hatch a series of staggeringly complicated, delightfully theatrical cons, all while trying not to get killed.
From the start, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a gem. (Especially on audiobook; this narrator is magical.) Precocious Locke is as great a coming-of-age hero as was ever written: wide-eyed but street smart, though slow to realize he’s better at this than all the other kids. In the first book, Locke and his charmingly maniacal fellow Gentlemen Bastards get impossibly entwined with Camorr’s criminal underworld. Schemes stack like a house of cards and every double-cross crosses back on itself. The are crimes and scams, magic and good, old-fashioned tricks on every page. The end is surprisingly heavy – I had so much fun reading it, I didn’t realize how invested I was. Red Seas Under Red Skies takes a wacky turn – pirates! Now twenty-something Locke & Co. become embroiled in espionage and kingmaking against a backdrop of truly wild people and places. Finally, the Republic of Thieves delivers not one but two grand finales: in present day, and another interwoven backstory of the Gentlemen Bastard’s formative years that colors in every last inch of this series to complete a glorious picture.
Scott Lynch’s writing is magnificent. It doesn’t trip itself up being too fancy. It’s literary enough to flow quickly and powerfully, but never quite churns itself on the wild path of his incredibly complicated story. The story hints and foreshadows (I was picking up Easter eggs by book two), then comes to clear resolutions, neither over- nor under-explaining the ruse. You can be smart enough to get a little ahead, but no one is left behind. It’s immensely satisfying.
These books are also very funny. The intricacies of Lynch’s world-building are used to great effect as these boys grow up getting into every conceivable type of trouble. Imagine if JM Barrie’s Lost Boys if they’d joined Captain Hook’s crew. Locke is their Peter. (I just thought of this. No wonder I liked these books so much!)
Most notably, The Lies of Locke Lamora series is very direct. It reads very male. There is much more warmth than The Wheel of Time, and magnificently better character development, there’s similarly little romance until several books in. And it’s not missed. The story simply has no time between it’s medieval times-meets-Mission Impossible schemes, politicking, carousing, fart jokes, and life lessons delivered by delinquent parental figures to cram in another plot line. When the romance does arrive, it’s well worth the wait. (I might like Sabetha even better than Locke.)
The Gentlemen Bastards series was a joy to read. So why not 5/5 stars? I was happy at the end of this series. I want to revisit it, not to see it continue. More would be past the Gentlemen Bastards’ prime, and Locke Lamora would know when to pass that torch.