I have mixed feeling abut Scott Lynch’s debut novel The Lies of Locke Lamora. I read it based on the wonderful reviews it has received, and decided to give it a shot. While I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it to others, I don’t think I will be reading the next book in the series.
Scott Lynch’s writing was very good, and I was never bored reading it. The characters’ dialogue often had unnecessary curses, I thought, but it didn’t detract too much from the overall whole. The witty banter between characters was really the highlight of the novel – especially between Father Chains (by far my favorite character) and pretty much everyone he met – and the book was filled with great one-liners. I laughed quite a lot, despite the novel’s dark overtones.
The world described by Scott Lynch in the book was very well developed. All of the book’s action took place in the city-state of Camorr, which was not-so-subtly based on medieval Venice. Camorr itself was very richly developed, and it was easy to forget that I was sitting on a couch reading a book; Scott Lynch really was able to draw me into the odd quirks of the city of Camorr, from its shark-fighting to its institutionalized corruption to the hints of a forgotten people who had once lived there. I assume the rest of the world will be developed in Lynch’s later novels, as in this book he told of a world beyond Camorr, and from the details he dropped it also seemed very well-thought out and developed.
However, what will keep me from reading the next one are the characters and narrative. Scott Lynch’s writing, dialogue, and setting were all wonderful, but I never felt his characters had any depth; they failed to draw me in. Locke seemed to be absolutely perfect, with no flaws, and the rest of his Gentleman Bastard gang seemed the same way. The characters never drew me in, and they largely seemed caricatured. None of them seemed to have overly extensive backstories, and even the intriguing villain seemed to have only a rather half thought-out sob story that made little logical sense (his whole deal seemed contrived to me, like the success of the main characters). I didn’t care when the characters died; what kept me reading was wanting to uncover how everything fit together, not the charm of the characters (excepting Father Chains, who was absolsutely wonderful).
The plot was relatively predictable, and I was actually astonished at how almost nothing seemed to go wrong for them throughout the book until the very end, and even then Locke and Jean seemed to escape largely unharmed. The whole thing seemed somewhat contrived; Locke almost never screwed up, and while terrible things did eventually happen to his gang, he still managed to beat circumstances relatively little worse for the wear. The whole novel, at times, seemed to be going from one fortuitous happening after another, and came across as sort of contrived. Furthermore, the book was very back-heavy, and not in a good way; there was no real suspense building up to the finale. It just kind of suddenly happened.
So, in the end, The Lies of Locke Lamora was worth the read. It clearly set itself up for a sequel, but I think it works just fine as a standalone novel as well, and I think I shall keep it that way.