A book that turns profanity into an art form: The lies of Locke Lamora

The lies of Locke Lamora is a book about how an orphan child escaped the plague and went on becoming an urban legend, The Thorn of Camor.

The Gentleman Bastards series is written by American author Scott Lynch, The lies of Locke Lamora being the first book in a series of seven. It was written in 2006 and the best way to describe it is a combination between Ocean’s eleven, Robin Hood and Game of Thrones. Speaking of the man, George R.R. Martin himself reviewed the book so, as a fair warning, not all of your favorite characters will make it out alive.

The book takes place in the fictional town of Camor, in a medieval mediterranen-like atmosphere. It follows the adventures of Locke himself, as he escapes the plague and hides between the children bought by the Thiefmaker in order to use them for and underground gang of thieves. He ends up causing him so much trouble that he sells Locke to a blind priest at the church of one of their twelve gods. There he becomes a gentleman bastard along his gang of friends, Calo, Galdo, Jean, Bug and Sabetha.

Scott Lynch combines the suspense of a trickster character, Locke, and the irony of what life offers to his characters. As all well written heroes go, the thorn needs to suffer in order to grow. He lives a quaint life with his friends at the church as they all juggle between the life as priests, the life as a gang on the streets that brings money to the local mafia and the cons of different lords and ladies. On one hand, Locke would steal his own shoes and lie about them being stolen, in order to get what he wants. On the other hand, he would steal everyone else’s shoes and sell his own. He’s personality and wit is what will eventually become his own undoing. As he is taught not to mess with magic users or insult them, the first thing he says as he meets a mage is an insult:

“Yes. Chains shook his head. Sorcery’s impressive enough, but it’s their f****** attitude that makes them such a pain. And that’s why, when you find yourself face to face with one, you bow and scrape your sirs and madams.”

Locke meeting a mage ten years later:

“Nice bird a**hole”

The book brings good representation of overweight people in the character of Jean Tannen, who is as much a good thief, and a menace in a fight, as any of the other gentleman bastards. He is also the most intelligent one when it comes to numbers and logical problems, this causing a little jealousy in Locke when they meet as children. Another good representation is of Locke’s demi-sexuality as he struggles with his sexless life while waiting for the woman he loves to come back from her missions.

The world building is something to look forward in this book. As you keep reading, you will become so engrossed in the places that you will feel like home in this imaginary world. Given how much time you will spend on this book, it will really feel like a lifetime took place reading it. And after each chapter there is a small glimpse into the past of the main characters and how they developed in time. Locke’s schemes will keep any reader on his toes, as you try to figure out what’s his next move or how everything is connected or as he fools the money out of dukes pockets and keeps it all beneath the church. But as much action as the book gives, at times there can be twice as much description of the world and the said action so this might prove a problem to some readers. Some pages are stacked full of description and this might bore some part of the book’s audience.

I read this book in Romanian first and there were some swear words and expressions too funny to ignore, but as I checked the English version, it seems that Locke swears so much in it that some people prefer not to read it. However, the vulgarity and profanity of Lynch’s work is charming enough to find it endearing. Most of the swearing is done by Locke, making it part of his charming personality.