The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.
Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves. The Gentleman Bastards.
The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they have ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive.
Series: Gentleman Bastards #1
Genre: Fantasy adventure
Published: Gollancz, 2007 (originally 2006)
A swashbuckling story of vengeance and loyalty, betrayal and lies, all set against a beautifully described city reminiscent of Venice. I wanted so much to give The Lies of Locke Lamora five stars, but sadly it didn’t grip me as much as I wanted it to. Allow me to explain.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is set in Camorr, a city built on the remains of an ancient city of unyielding Elderglass, sectioned by canals and peopled by a colourful mix of the nobility, adherents of the twelve (or thirteen) gods, and the thieves and low-lives that make up the criminal underbelly. Locke and his gang of Gentleman Bastards live poised on the edge of the criminal boss Capa Barsavi’s control – giving the appearance of being mediocre thieves, when in fact they are masterminds of high-stakes heists and are really quite wealthy. When leaders of other gangs start turning up murdered by the mysterious Grey King, things start to go wrong for the entire criminal society. Locke and his friends must fight for their lives on several fronts.
There are essentially two stories in one here, as at the end of each chapter there is a flashback to the Bastards’ childhood as they are being trained by their mentor, Father Chains. With a slightly Oliver Twist feel, we learn how the gang developed each of their specialised skills and various other things about the way Camorr society works. Each of these snippets is important to understanding the rest of the story.
The only problem with having snippets of flashback is that it really breaks the story up. They ruined the flow of the main storyline for me, and prevented me from getting properly hooked.
I thought it was a real shame that the pacing was so disrupted. Every other aspect of the story was fantastic – the characters are snarky, brilliant and loyal to a fault. Their banter had me chuckling to myself all the way through, and I loved the variety of disguises the Bastards use in their work. The descriptions of everything are amazingly detailed but not overwhelmingly so – I loved the way the ancient Elderglass holds the light of the day after sunset, the dangers lurking in the waters beneath the city and all the different foods and drinks described so lovingly throughout the book.
The magic in Camorr is mostly based on alchemy – glowing light globes, poisons and other botanical oddities are everywhere. There are also the Bondsmagi of the faraway city of Karthain, who work their own particular magic for a hefty price. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of the Bondsmagi before long.
The action towards the end of the story was the most gripping part and even though the ending wrapped things up very nicely, I’m still keen to get my hands on the second in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, just to see what the Bastards get up to next!
This is a debut that reads like the production of a veteran writer. Fans of Game of Thrones and the like will love this story of adventure.
Warnings: Brutal violence, torture and plenty of swearing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Gentleman Bastards series
- The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
- Red Seas Under Red Skies (2007)
- The Republic of Thieves (tbp October 2013)
… and 4 more planned!