I stole my copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora without realizing at the time how apt that was. Granted, I didn’t “coat-charm” it from a wealthy publishing executive on Fifth Avenue or run out of a Barnes and Noble with it under my arm, but I like to think Locke would be proud (as dangerous as that can be).
The Lies of Locke Lamora details the life and times of the eponymous master thief as he dodges the grasp of the organized crime and totalitarian government both, trying to make a quick buck and survive in the waterlogged city of Camorr. It features a huge cast of characters on every possible side of the law, a world of complex cultural aspects and of course, an intricate web of lies.
Generally speaking, I don’t like “depthy” books. I’ve had numerous false starts with Lord of the Rings and Shannara and Dune. While world-building can be fun, too many invented words or exposition dumping tends to lose me.
Locke Lamora is like someone’s dad at the pool: it shoves you in the deep end and just sort of hopes you’ll make it out okay. It throws all kinds of cultural complexity, pseudo-Italian language, a cast of intricately related characters, multiple timelines of flashbacks, and multi-layered political backstabbing right at you and doesn’t stop to make sure you’re keeping up. There’s a single, tiny map and nary an appendix or cast of characters index in sight.
But I wasn’t lost. Somehow I kept up. Maybe it’s a product of the one time I tried to learn Italian through Duolingo but the language wasn’t too hard to figure. I mixed up a few words here and there as it went on but the writing always managed to gently remind me their meanings.
Those of you who know me personally know that I had a minor brush with theft this past summer which has left me ever so slightly on edge ever since and this book did not help. That guy handing out religious pamphlets on the corner? Definitely a distraction for someone rifling through my coat. Those guys pretending to be Buddhist monks in Central Park are certainly scammers, but what about that wallet left behind at the dollar pizza place? Has to be a “tease”. Needless to say, it’s got me endlessly paranoid. But you know. In a good way.
I highly recommend this book to authors, and not just creators of fantasy or speculative fiction. It made me really rethink how I’m presenting my world in the text of Faehunter (you know, outside of some fantastic blog posts). It’s especially valuable to writers who play with timelines as Lies goes fast and loose, flashing back and forth relentlessly. It also features deep characters on wildly sliding scales of morality and idealism which is excellent for writers of any genre to study.
In fact, I recommend this book to just about anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of swearing and gore.
It’s something of a masterpiece.
And while I can’t outright condone thievery (and I’m sure the publishers and author certainly wish I wouldn’t) but you know.