Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch
Gollancz/Bantam Spectra, 505/512 pages

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch
Scott Lynch was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978 and currently lives in Wisconsin with his fiancee. He moonlights as a game designer and volunteer firefighter. The Lies of Locke Lamora is his first novel.

ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

The story begins with a deal between a Thieftaker and a false priest for the life of a small orphan boy named Locke Lamora. The Thieftaker is going to either sell him or kill him. The priest, Father Chains, takes him but threatens the boy's life unless he tells his story honestly: why did the Thieftaker need to be rid of him?

The answer -- and Locke's subsequent life as a thief and scammer extraordinaire among a fellowship that call themselves the Gentlemen Bastards -- unfolds over the course of the story. The setting is the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a long-gone and mysterious alien race. The city is a vivid maze of houses and levels of social rank, with a heavy emphasis on corruption, filth, and odors.

Father Chains pretty much sets the tone early on. He's not strictly a false priest, he's only false to the sect for which he appears to be a priest. He really is a priest, "a priest of thieves and a thief of priests." The thing is, everyone wears personas as masks, layers of them, just as the city is layered in mysteries. Though he's going to train Locke along with his carefully selected brotherhood of orphans -- the Gentlemen Bastards -- he requires Locke to expiate the deaths he'd caused.

Back and forth we weave in time, discovering in-between adventurous escapades and hairs-breadth escapes how Locke came to lead the Gentleman Bastards. He becomes the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble from the ruling duke down is safe from his stings. Nor, as it turns out, is the criminal underworld's most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi.

Locke would seem (despite his plans going south at least as often as they work, causing desperate inventions on the run) to be on top of his world -- but then a new figure enters, far more sinister and effective than either the duke or Capa. In fact, even moreso than Locke. This is the Grey King. He's slowly killing Capa Barsavi's most trusted men, while using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr's underworld. Under this threat, and impelled by deaths closer to home, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own vicious game, or die.

Scott Lynch's setting and tone will remind some readers of Fritz Leiber's famed thief duo, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, as Comorr will call Lankhmar to mind. But it would be a mistake to peg the book as simply a Leiber homage; there is a very long tradition for the picaresque tale -- earthy and farcical -- going back at least to Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel romping their way through pungent and fantastical distortions of old Europe. The story's sense of individual liberty and moral ambiguity also harks back Rabelais and his artistic heirs. Lynch's Locke is no unblemished hero, but he's charming and loyal to his brethren. Locke as a boy is in particular very appealing, and his chapters alternated with Locke's actions as the leader of the Bastards keeps the story moving at a picaresque pace. The second half of the book, when the Grey King begins his machinations, is quite a bit darker, revving the tension significantly. The Lies of Locke Lamora comes to a close after a terrific climax, but there are plenty of tantalizing threads left dangling, making the reader look forward to the next book in the series.

Copyright © 2006 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide