Writer: Scott Lynch
Ah, at long last, the end of my self-appointed fantasy project. It took me a little longer to read than it should've, not because of the book but because I had too much to do to prepare for my final residency at SHU, and reading this book was at the bottom of the list. Fortunately, I had PLENTY of time in the airport to read, so I took advantage of it.
The Lies of Locke Lamora was the book NOT on the fantasy ballot, but the book that the fantasy writers joined together and picked anyway. I'd been meaning to read this book for a while, but I kept putting it off, partially because all the praise surrounding it almost guaranteed me not wanting to like it, as backwards as that sounds. I don't know what exactly the threshold is, but I reach a point where I become suspicious of a well-praised book, and I'm more apt not to like it because of it.
It's a difficult book to summarize, yet it's easy to describe: it's Robin Hood meets Ocean's Eleven with a splash of fantasy-adventure mixed in. The world-building and setting is top-notch, if a little overdone to a certain extent, but I can't judge Lynch too harshly, especially since I've seen on his website that there will be seven freaking books in this series. Seven books! No wonder the world-building of Camorr is so fleshed out.
Talking about this book is a little difficult, because I've already had the chance to dump my thoughts on my peers at SHU during the book discussion. I'll do my best here, and I can say I'm rather torn as to how good a choice this book was for non-fantasy readers. There's certainly some cross-over appeal, but despite the fast-paced voice, the book isn't necessary EASY to read, and I'll explain why in the cut. But I'll give the book this: it made great fodder for discussion, as there were a variety of opinions from everyone, fantasy readers and non-fantasy readers alike.
But because talking about this book is difficult, I'm going to keep this short and sweet and not bother with a cut. There's things I really liked. The sense of mischief and the love of the caper, the use of magic in this otherwise rather realistic setting. In fact, this is the kind of setting I'd wished Ellen Kushner had used in The Privilege of the Sword. Just the touch of something different is enough to reinforce the notion that I'm in a fantasy world, and that's really all I need. Oh sure, Lynch had Bondsmages and Elderglass, all of which is cool stuff (the latter made me wonder if I'm in a secondary world or perhaps another planet), but it was the use of alchemy in daily life that sold it for me.
The book's a fast read, which is a good thing, given its page length. And while I enjoyed the book, certainly giggled at certain spots, and while I very much admired the world-building, I found myself very distanced from the book for two reasons: 1) the POV was too distant and slippery, making it hard to truly emphasize with any characters even though some of them were certainly entertaining, and 2) the flashbacks, even within a current timeline (the book flips from past to present on an irregular basis), kept jarring me out of the book. Rather than making me anxious to read more (Lynch tried to end his chapters and parts with cliffhangers of a sort), I found myself frustrated instead. Flashbacks are a tough thing to pull off, and sometimes they worked really well in this book, and other times, they felt like mere tangents in order to reinforce the world-building or a particular theme (and in the case of the latter, I never felt the need for those things to be reinforced).
Worth the Cash: in the end, I liked the book pretty well, but I never loved it. I never felt the impulsive urge to read the rest of the books of the series RIGHT THIS INSTANT (admittedly, only one other is on the shelf, but I think there's going to be seven total). The distance killed me, because while I think Lynch may have started out writing a character book (after all, it's about Locke Lamora--who, I will admit, isn't perfect by a long-shot, and that's a nice thing to see in fantasy), this really is a milieu story. I won't say that I'm not interested in the other books in the series, because I am, mildly. But without that addictive urge pushing me forward, I'm content to sit around and see what becomes of this series, and listen to fan reaction first.
Next up: The Martian General's Daughter by Theodore Judson