Screen Rant had a list I found recently of interesting fantasy worlds to read about while Game of Thrones is between seasons. There were some interesting suggestions on there, so I tried one out with the possibility of hitting more later.
The book in question was The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, the first of the “Gentleman Bastards” series. Described as being set in a fantasy world where the main character is a master thief and con man who finds himself getting into increasingly dangerous Mission: Impossible-style adventures, I took a chance and have a review with perhaps a couple mild spoilers after the cut.
Set in the fictional city-state of Camorr, the book opens with a Fagin-like figure, the Thiefmaker, trying to sell a problematic orphan from his thief gang to someone known as Father Chains, the Eyeless Priest. Camorr seems to be some sort of fantasy version of Venice if it were co-designed by Charles Dickens (for the poverty and the rich-poor divide) and JRR Tolkien (for the fantasy elements). It seems the Thiefmaker routinely rounds up orphans for his gang to train up and one kid who came along with the last batch, one Locke Lamora, is too clever and too troublesome to really handle. If the priest doesn’t take the boy, the Thiefmaker has the city’s crime lord’s permission to kill the kid who is maybe seven years old.
Naturally, Father Chains takes the lad, and it turns out Chains isn’t that holy. In fact, he still has his eyes. He’s a priest for an unrecognized thirteenth god in the city’s twelve god pantheon, the Crooked Warden, and that’s the patron god of thieves. To the general public, Chains is a devout man who sacrificed his eyes and has himself chained to his church in honor of one of the recognized gods. In reality, he comes and goes as he pleases, training a small gang of very promising boys as the ultimate con men/thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards.
That’s more or less the novel’s introductory section. The book proceeds, cutting back and forth between Locke’s childhood learning along with Chains’ other proteges what it means to pretend to be a gentleman while robbing the city’s nobility blind, and the adult Locke, now leader of the gang which includes a pair of identical twin troublemakers, a large guy named Jean Tannen who is deadly with an axe and Locke’s muscle and righthand man, and a boy named Bug who is the newest member of the gang. Chains had a girl in his group, but the lone female member of the gang has left by the time the adult timeline starts and even in the flashbacks is only spoken of but never seen.
Lynch actually has quite a layered adventure. The initial con that Locke and his crew are pulling doesn’t seem to be all that interesting at first glance, but between the city’s spymaster and a rival to the crime lord coming to town and seeming to kill various gang leaders at will, there’s a lot for Locke to have to watch out for while keeping his true activities a secret even from other criminals. Lynch manages to keep the reader and Locke on their collective toes, with different twists and turns, and enough interludes to tell the reader everything he or she needs to know about both Locke’s past and, after a point, the history of this world and Camorr in particular. This is a book that, once it gets going, doesn’t stop. Not quite perfect, the novel should satisfy fans of the genre with a quick, fun read. I’m giving it nine out of ten Bondsmages.