In a nutshell this is a fantastic, fun ride. It has all the elements of a great modern fantasy: excellent characters, awesome world-building, and a fast-paced, well timed plot that keeps you interested.
A lot of Amazon reviewers are comparing Scott Lynch to Mark Lawrence and Patrick Rothfuss, and as a reader of all 3 authors, I feel that Lynch’s Locke and Company are NOTHING like Jorg or Kvothe.
While Jorg is a downright bastard (see Kaykay’s Cannonball 6 review) and Kvothe is cocky (see anevilweasel’s Cannonball 6 review), both characters show bastardy qualities as traits learned for survival. They are incredibly honest and aware of who they are and how their bastardy hurts other people. They’re unapologetic, but they’re aware.
Locke Lamora is not this. He and his team of Gentlemen Bastards are the equivalent of white-collar thieves who lay elaborate Catch-Me-If-You-Can type heists that separate wealthy, unsuspecting nobles from vast quantities of their money. And unlike Robin Hood, Locke’s gang simply stashes their gains away in order to continually one-up their own abilities with each passing heist.
Locke schemes for the fun of it and has zero remorse for the ruined lives of the people he’s duped. He lies like he breathes and planning a heist is his equivalent of chasing a high. But, he’s still a likable character. He is fiercely loyal to his own and takes full responsibility for the team’s failures and mistakes.
Lynch also uses a very innovative and ingenious structure in which he alternates past and present time lines in every other chapter. It allows Locke to wow you with his truly innovative farces that then leave you surprised and laughing when the next chapter unfolds his secrets.
There are two things keeping this book from being a 5: the first is the plot’s Big Bad. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that Lynch’s antagonist goes from being a dangerously mysterious and powerful force to becoming a caricature of every comic book villain on the planet. While the final show down between Locke and Capa Raza is incredibly written and very moving, how they get there leaves you saying “really?” The second is that there is no character arc yet for Locke. This is the first book of a trilogy, so I’m not passing judgment yet on this, but after serious emotional and physical trauma by the book’s end, Locke just hops a ship and goes right back to the lifestyle he’s used to.
I will be reviewing the other two books in this series for cannonball, so it will be interesting to see where this character goes.