The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a small band of con men, The Gentleman Bastards, as they get swept up in a plot bigger than they ever expected. It’s a gritty heist adventure fantasy with a healthy dose of humor. Content warning – language, gore
Character – 4/5
Setting – 5/5
Story – 4/5
Writing – 5/5
Recommended for: Anyone looking for a fun, emotionally satisfying, self-contained adventure story.
NOT recommended for: Young readers; anyone who is uncomfortable with language, violence, and gore; readers looking for more than entertainment.
An In-Depth Look
The title character, Locke, is golden. He’s rich and rounded with a healthy dose of sarcasm. He comes fully stocked with a nothing-can-get-me-down attitude which contrasts nicely against the grimy underworld of thieves and criminals he works in.
The side characters were good, but don’t expect to fall in love with everyone. Locke’s friends, targets, and enemies were all interesting in their own right, though—as characters—none quite measured up to Locke’s complexity… though his closest friend and his mentor come close. This was a little disappointing, though not enough to knock more than one star off this section.
Even though not every character captivated me, Locke’s interest in them made up for this, allowing me to care deeply for each of them anyway. If you’re an emotional reader like me, you’ll be able to follow each character’s highs and lows, however you’ll follow those highs and lows as they relate to Locke himself. Did Lynch purposely write it this way? I don’t know, but it works.
A quick note – Something I personally like best about these characters is the creative insults they throw around. The way Lynch and his characters manipulate language is delightful and (very often) laugh-out-loud funny.
Something I enjoyed about Lies is how little of the world we actually see. The territory surrounding Locke’s hometown, Camorr, feels believable and extensive. Our view of it is shaped by occasional stories, legends, phrases, comments we hear. However, much of this richness doesn’t have a direct influence on the story in any major way. Instead, the story takes place in a single oceanfront city, isolating our characters, and making the land around Carmorr feel that much bigger and more realistic.
Lies of Locke Lamora is technically a “fantasy,” so yes, there is magic. Though for once our main characters don’t control it. This isn’t another “You’re the One, Neo!” type of story. Magic is just one more obstacle for the Gentleman Bastards to oppose. I appreciated this unique approach, as it again made the whole story feel that much more believable.
Everything about The Lies of Locke Lamora is gritty and dark, but that darkness is encased in a healthy dose of humor. It’s an adventure story to the very core. It’s relatively simple, straightforward and follows the standard “adventure arc,” which I found immensely satisfying. I went into this book expecting a simple heist (the proper expectation, I think), which allowed Lynch wow me with touching bonuses I didn’t expect.
Lies captured my imagination and emotions. It pulled both laughter and tears from me multiple times. And Act 3 paid off nicely, wrapping everything up well. Though it did wrap up by means of somewhat lazy exposition I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Unlike many fantasy stories, Lies is self-contained but leaves a few ends untied, setting up for future adventures should you desire to continue in the series. (And I definitely do!)
Lynch writes simply and directly and in such an entertaining manner that I enjoyed simply following along. His prose is easy to follow and is extremely creative. (I rarely find this level of crassness creative, but Lynch pulled it off).
The story structure itself was brilliantly crafted, mixing in flashbacks of the gang’s early years alongside the present-day situation. Lynch delivers each scene, past or present, at the exact right time and in a way that allows the reader to build a complete image of the story by herself, rather than feeling spoonfed.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is not family friendly. But with a series name like The Gentleman Bastards, is that really a shock?
If crass language and innuendos offend you, you will not enjoy this book. If unpleasant and/or painful, gory descriptions bother you, you will not enjoy this book.
Personally, I found the “adult content” served the story in a positive way. Locke and his friends are criminals. They work with criminals. They have sailor mouths and mob boss tendencies. That’s just the way it is. I felt this decision served to better showcase the characters and their world, make everything feel more real, and give Locke himself a nice contrast against the “high class” characters he plays.
Completely Biased Closing Thoughts
The few things I didn’t like about this book, I already mentioned above: not every character was incredibly deep, some reveals were accomplished solely through exposition, and I predicted a few “unpredictable” scenes (if only halfway). However, none of these “imperfections” turned me away.
I read with my emotions as much as I read with my imagination. Lies captivated both of those, shaking me up in the best way and allowing me to feel excitement, fear, sadness, joy, and satisfaction right along with our hero.
Do I think this book is right for everyone? No. But only due to content and the relative darkness of the story and world. Perhaps some readers looking for deep, philosophical quandaries will find this story lacking, but I personally think some stories need nothing deeper than well-crafted entertainment value. The Lies of Locke Lamora has that.
After all, the main elements of this story (adventure, action, mystery, wit, quick pacing, intrigue, plots, schemes, smart people outsmarting other smart people, high stakes, severe consequences) are universally praised.
In conclusion, I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora. To the mature reader, I say this book is definitely worth your time.
This is a Spoiler-Free Reader’s Guide (in 1,000 Words or Less). Read more about my Spoiler-Free Reader’s Guide project here.