If you’re a fan of fantasy, you’re always looking for the next series that will hook you as much as your Term of Comparison, which in my case are the Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. My quest recently took me through some hits and misses. The first volumes of the Earthsea Cycle, the Camulod Chronicles, Black Jewels and the Riftwar Saga didn’t make me move on to the next, but Fables, The Queen’s Thief and Mosca Mye pushed the right buttons.

I can now add to this last list the first volume of the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora. By the way, I love the cover, even though I heard it in audiobook, read by an amazing Michael Page (I’ll definitely look for his other works).

The setting is Camorr, a fantasy version of Venice in all its Renaissance glory. The city is ruled by the Duke and the Capa Barsavi, the Godfather of all criminals. Between these two there’s a pact, the “Secret Peace”, that ensures that the nobility allows a certain amount of crime to go unpunished while the criminals avoid targeting the nobility too much.

When we‘re first introduced to Locke Lamora he’s 6-year old orphan who’s too good a thief and smart a plotter for his own good. So much so that the master of Camorr’s street urchins decides to sell him to Father Chains, a worshiper of the obscure 13th God, patron of thieves. It’s under this new mentor that Locke becomes a much subtler criminal (a Gentleman Bastard) and ultimately the “Thorn of Camorr”, a Robin-Hood-like character who’s more interested in out-smarting the nobility (and putting the Peace at risk) than getting rich.

Lynch interweaves the “present” tale with stories (anecdotes, really) of Locke and the other Gentleman Bastards growing up, so little by little you get to know them, as well as the history and traditions of Camorr. This format pushed the story along nicely, especially because you see old lessons and mistakes being practically applied in the present day.

It’s a fun read, with a good dose of humor, even though it doesn’t shy away from grittiness, violence and harsh language. It reminded me of other picaresque, swashbuckling tragicomedies like Scaramouche and Captain Blood. Gene Kelly would be a great Locke (btw, Warner Bros bought the movie rights right after its release).

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first of a 7-book series and you already have some hints that the story will arch and become more complex and epic. Some important questions remain opened – the low trick of series writers!

*sigh* Altogether a most satisfying book. 🙂

On the TBR I still have waiting are the first volumes of the Baroque Cycle, the Darkover Series, the Kingkiller Chronicle and Temeraire. Have you read them? Any other recommendations?

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Other thoughts: Reading Matters (yours?)

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