Often described as Ocean's ElevenONLY FANTASY, this series centers around a Magnificent Bastard thief who goes by Locke Lamora and his companion(s), set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Venice. Originally picked up by a Fagin-equivalent known as Thiefmaker as an addition to his string, Locke quickly makes it impossible for the Thiefmaker to keep him through a series of suicidally audacious schemes, resulting in his sale to Father Chains, ostensibly a beggar-priest but in reality a gifted con artist and devotee of the nameless god of thieves.As he grows and learns, Locke finds himself contending with the rise of the Gray King, who begins trying to overthrow the established orders of thieves in the city. And so he finds himself in an ever-expanding ring of trouble...Scott Lynch has released three of the seven planned books:
Action Girl: Zamira, Ezri, Merrain, Sabetha, and the Berengias sisters. And Selendri, since she used to be an Eye. Less specifically, there are the contrarequialla, the female-only gladiators who fight sharks during festivals.
Alliterative Name: Locke, which is commented upon when he first states his name. Also Dona Sofia Salvara and one of the Gentlemen Bastards's aliases.
Always Second Best: The source of a lot of the tension in Locke and Sabetha's relationship. While they are both equally skilled grifters, Locke wins the recognition that Sabetha craves with very little effort, sometimes even by accident. It's unclear how much of this is because of sexism and how much is because Locke is incapable (to a fault) of making his cons anything other than giant, flashy, insane capers (as opposed to Sabetha's caution and forethought).
Amnesiac Hero: Locke has hardly any memories of whatever happened before he got out of a plague-struck district of Camorr as a small child. We learn why and how in Republic of Thieves...maybe.
Amusing Injuries: In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke gets kicked in the balls during a raid on Don Salvara's house, which is played for laughs. The beatings he takes on the job get less and less funny as the book goes on.
Anachronic Order: The chapter where Locke masquerades as a Midnighter (secret cop) who tells the Salvaras about his Spanish Prisoner gambit is told this way. The beginning of the conversation is told from Don Lorenzo's perspective, without revealing to the reader who the Midnighter really is. This is followed by a description of Locke dressing up as a Midnighter, and we see the rest of the conversation from Locke's perspective. Then we see how Calo and Locke broke into the Salvara's manor to surprise the Don in the first place.
Other chapters in the series are told in a similar manner, such as the chapter where the Gentleman Bastards initiate the Don Salvara Game. It flips back and forth between the staged mugging and the events leading up to it, the former from both the older gang members' and Bug's points of view.
And I Must Scream: Since killing a Bondsmage brings the rest of them down on your head and the heads of everyone you've ever met, this is how Locke and Jean deal with the Falconer - permanently cripple him so he can't use magic, then hand him back to his fellows as a warning. Alas, they're still fairly put out. Unfortunately, as of the end of the third book, the Falconer managed to repair himself... and he has plans...
Anti-Hero: Jean and Locke. They steal (of course), they kill and they're entirely willing to torture another human being — but their torture victims really have it coming, and if it comes down to doing the right thing on one hand or getting vengeance or money on the other, they'll generally do the right thing first and try to catch up with the vengeance and money later. In one case they even give up the money entirely as an offering to the Crooked Warden. Also to annoy their enemies.
And This Is for...: Locke when chopping off the Falconer's fingers with a red-hot knife. One each for Bug, Galdo, Calo, and Nazca. The rest are for him and Jean. Invoked again during Locke's final encounter with the Gray King where Locke punctuates each lethal stab with the names of his dead friends.
Anyone Can Die: By halfway through the first book, more than half the Gentlemen Bastards are dead along with Capa Barsavi and his entire family. And that's just the beginning.
Applied Phlebotinum: Dreamsteel is a quicksilver-like substance which can be shaped and controlled by magic and is used by bondsmagi in many of their works.
The Archmage: Four of them rule the Bondsmagi of Karthain. The title is actually "Archedon" for men and "Archedama" for women.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Of the aristocrats and oligarchs present in the books thus far, the vast majority take Moral Myopia to an art form, feel no compassion or empathy for the lives of commoners except for those in their employ, and live in decadence that would put Versailles to shame. Don and Dona Salvara appear to be among the few exceptions, and even they aren't necessarily philanthropists.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Locke describes his treatment of the bondsmage. Stabbed him a few times, drove him nuts, cut off all his fingers and cut out his tongue. Also called him an arsehole, which apparently offended him.
Automaton Horses: Gentled animals. They still need food and water, but don't feel pain or fatigue or have any personal initiative.
Awesome McCoolname: Readers tend to enjoy the sound of the names. Locke Lamora's name is noted in the text as having a nice ring to it.
Badass Preacher: All of the Gentlemen Bastards can pass themselves off as priests of various orders. Locke is a legitimately ordained priest of the Crooked Warden (the thirteenth god). Father Chains is also a priest of the Crooked Warden, and his cover identity is as a famous priest of beggars.
Ban on Magic: The bondsmagi prohibit magic beyond a certain complexity outside their order. They tolerate alchemy, however.
Bad-Guy Bar: The Last Mistake, right next to Capa Barsavi's headquarters. And the Tattered Crimson, in Port Prodigal.
Band of Brothels: The Camorri brothels are intimidating enough that even Capa Barsavi doesn't dare interfere with them. They still pay him for his assistance, but at a significantly lower percentage of profits than any other dues paid by the gangs under his rule.
Battle Butler: Conte, the Salvaras' manservant, is very competent in a fight.
The Beastmaster: The Falconer's primary talent, complete with his Bond Creature, Vestris (a scorpion-hawk with poisonous talons), the use of Animal Eye Spies, manipulating normally docile creatures into suicidal attacks, and killing people very painfully and thoroughly. Hence his assumed name. His link with Vestris is the key to his defeat in the end; the remaining Bastards kill her, giving the Falconer an extremely painful Poke in the Third Eye that leaves him half-mad with agony. They then capture and torture him the rest of the way.
Bi the Way: Jabril makes this discovery. Sabetha makes the suggestion that she might prefer girls, but this is to explain to Locke why it is a problem that he doesn't seem to have calculated her interests into his infatuation; after he's done freaking out, she assures him that she is also sexually attracted to men.
Big Bad: The Gray King in Lies, Archon Maxilan Stragos in Red Seas. Republic doesn't have a single central antagonist, unless Sabetha counts; while Archedama Foresight was the ultimate string-puller of the opposition, her direct role in the novel is minimal, and Sabetha is only a hired agent. Though the ending implies that the newly-restored Falconer is on his way to becoming this as well.
Big Bad Friend: Jean pretends to become one of these in the prologue of the second book.
Bigger Bad: The third book implies the existence of one; apparently whatever force destroyed the Eldren may still be around, and much of what the Bondsmagi do is based around keeping it from returning.
Bittersweet Ending: Each book ends this way. The Bastards succeed in their short-term goals, but at a price. Book one ends with over half the Gentleman Bastards dead. Book two ends with Locke being poisoned and Jean having lost the lady he loved. Book three has Locke crushed by the revelation of his past identity and Sabetha's most recent abandonment.
Black and Gray Morality: Ubiquitous. There are no out and out heroes in the world of the series so far, though the protagonists are at least conscientious enough to avoid random mayhem and try to make it right by anyone they've screwed who didn't deserve it. In other stories, figures like Requin and Capa Barsavi would be monstrous Big Bad types who'd thoroughly crossed the Moral Event Horizon. Here, they're both indispensable and powerful fixtures of their respective cities' underworld and crucial to local stability, and the reader is invited to sympathize with them to some extent. The Bondsmagi themselves are presented as creepy and malevolent in the first two books but the third one shows that while they are indeed Manipulative Bastards, most of them are not the vicious, sadistic, self-righteous sociopaths the Falconer would have you thinking they are.
Boxed Crook: Locke and Jean are subjected to this by the Archon. They really, really do not like it.
Brains and Brawn: Zig-zagged. Jean is a "muscle-and-fat" bruiser, who also happens to be the son of a well-off merchant, and superbly educated. Locke is a cunning but comparatively Book DumbSatisfied Street Rat. Locke is the ideas man and always takes point, while Jean backs him up with brawn or secondary grifting as required.
Brought Down to Badass: According to Patience, Locke used to be a renegade necromancer named Lamor Acanthus. He escaped death from old age by transferring his soul into the body of a young boy. Unfortunately, the move seems to have cost him his memory and his magical gifts.
Carrying the Antidote: Though he only carried enough for one. Also mildly averted in the first book where the Spider poisons Locke and offers him the antidote only if he helps her. He punches her out and loots the antidote from her unconscious body.
Cassandra Truth: Patience- who actually does possess some measure of precognition- warned the Falconer not to go to Camorr after he accepted the job of undertaking the Grey King's black contract. He didn't listen.
Collector of the Strange: One of the proudest claims of the Last Mistake is that it has secured a memento of every ship that has foundered within sight of Camorr over a period of seventy years. The walls are covered in "a bewildering variety of souvenirs, each one telling a visual tale that ended with the phrase 'not quite good enough.'" such as broken bits of ships, split helmets, and a suit of armor with a square hole punched into it by a crossbow bolt.
Combat Pragmatist: Locke, not being a Big Guy (like Jean) or a highly-trained martial artist (like Jean) is arguably the dirtiest fighter in the books thus far. Hell, in the first book, he punches out The Spider. Why is this notable? She's an octogenarian! This even grants him a Fake Ultimate Hero status after some lucky kills. Never better exemplified than when he takes out the Gray King by tricking him into thinking Jean's come up behind him.
Crapsack World: Crime is rampant, the law is brutal and corrupt, the aristocracy is decadent and callous, the magi are murderous. War and Eldritch Abominations loom. Even the environment is full of deadly stuff.
Locke encounters a cult of death seekers who act as muscle for a merchant ship. They force the ship to resist the pirate invasion rather than simply surrender their cargo. All of this conveniently keeps Locke and Jean sympathetic when helping to slaughter them.
Locke himself can fall into the attitude between the end of his most recent giant crazy plan and the beginning of another one; Jean theorises that without the thrill of the hustle, Locke genuinely wants to die. It's become more-or-less Jean's job to bully Locke out of this state when he lapses into it.
Disappeared Dad: Locke mentions that he has the barest glimmer of a memory of his mother, but nothing of his father. Turns out that even his memory of his mother wasn't really his mother.
The Bondsmagi are a living incarnation of this trope. They burned the capital city of an empire to the ground just to make a point. In the third book, we learn it was also because they thought the magi of that empire behaved in a way that could ultimately destroy the human race. Well, at least, that's what they say.
The Gray King also falls under this trope. Capa Barsavi murdered his parents and half of his siblings, over a disagreement about the Secret Peace that protected the city's nobles from thievery. The Gray King's idea of revenge is to not just kill Barsavi and his entire family, but to give all the noble families (including their children, born years after his family was killed) who benefited from Barsavi's Secret Peace a Fate Worse Than Death.
Double Agent: Coldmarrow initially looks like he is The Mole, but the Republic of Thieves ending makes it clear that he is ultimately loyal to Patience and her allies.
Before we know anything else Red Seas Under Red Skies shows us Locke in front of a burning ship, cornered by angry guards, and with his best friend apparently turning on him.
Republic of Thieves also starts with Locke slowly and painfully dying from poisoning (although it is quite obvious to the reader that he will find a way to get better).
The Dragon: The Falconer to the Gray King, in the first book.
Dragon-in-Chief: Borderline case. The plan was all the Gray King's, but the Falconer's magic was absolutely essential to making it run properly.
Drowning My Sorrows: Locke does it at least twice, in the second book after being debilitated by grief and battle wounds and in the second book while dying from poison.
Dual Wielding: Jean with his hatchets, the Wicked Sisters. Zamira Drakasha also does this with her sabres.
Due to the Dead: Part of the worship of the Crooked Warden involves sacrificing something of value to honor a fallen comrade. This offering must be stolen specifically for this purpose, and the greater the value of the offering, the greater the honor. At the end of the first book, Locke manages to offer an astronomical fortune to the memories of Calo, Galdo, and Bug.
Eldritch Abomination: Most of the Bondsmagi believe that the Eldren died because they attracted the attention of one of these. They are concerned that the same thing could happen to humans if they don't keep their magic low-key.
Empty Shell: What happens when a human or animal is Gentled. They no longer have independent will.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Plenty of this goes on. Capa Barsavi is a murderously ruthless mob boss, but the reader is invited to sympathize with his suffering at Nazca's murder; Requin clearly cares a great deal for Selendri and his Roaring Rampage of Revenge was suitably brutal, and the Gray King's entire motivation stemmed from trauma for the unjust slaughter of his entire family by the nobility of Camorr.
The thieves of Camorr will respect agreements with their leaders, and not harm or steal from those who have paid for protection.
Priests of the Crooked Warden are obligated to perform various rituals (usually funeral dedications) and can invoke obligations from other thieves. Locke, a priest of the Warden, balks at faking the funeral rite of another god, even to defend his own hide.
The process of "Gentling," basically a sort of chemically-induced lobotomy, is considered too cruel to use for punishment, even in a city where child thieves are routinely hanged.
And The Thiefmaker basically rules a bunch of psychologically enslaved orphans, most of whom die under his employ, until he can sell them to a gang. He'll even personally kill orphans who cross him after making the correct offerings to the gods. However, he won't sell kids into slavery, especially Sabetha, knowing that Jeremites would rape her to death because of her red hair.
The Fagin: Locke encounters both versions as a child. The first criminal who took him in, the Thiefmaker, was more of the evil version, but he ends up selling Locke to Father Chains, who is very clearly inspired by the positive takes on Fagin.
Fall Guy: Jasmer Moncraine for the murder of Baron Boulidazi, who was actually killed by Locke after he was fatally wounded by Jenora when he tried to rape her. Notably that this was NOT the plan originally and Boulidazi's death was going to appear to be an accident, burning to death in a fire. They only pin it on Moncraine after he skips town on the rest of the troupe with all the stolen profits from their performance and leaves the rest of them high and dry, instead of splitting it up amongst the troupe as was originally planned.
Fake Aristocrat: * In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke pretends to be an aristocrat as part of a scheme to con actual aristocrats out of their money.
Fate Worse Than Death: Being "gentled" using wraithstone. It destroys your mind and turns you into an Empty Shell. It is only done to animals, and using it on humans is seen as a hideous crime virtually anywhere in the world (including in some places where hanging children or torturing enemies for hours are normal things). The Gray King/Capa Raza intends to do that to all of Camorr's nobility, including their spouses, children and servants.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Camorr/Venice most obviously, but there is a rough counterpart to all of the cultures in the books. Kingdom of the Seven Marrows is based on the South German/Austrian lands of the Holy Roman Empire. The Vadran language is obviously based on German. Tal Verrar is also based on Venice, as a multi-island realm whose power lies in the fleet. Karthain is a third Venice analogue, a multi-island republic. Jerem has a few references to pre-industrial India. The defunct Therin Empire is hinted to be a sort of Roman Empire.
Flashback: Books one and three alternate chapters with flashbacks that cover the years prior to the first book. Red Seas uses them to explain How We Got Here instead.
Flynning: The sword master that teaches Jean explains that he teaches the rich kids how to fight formalized duels rather than actual self-defense. What he teaches Jean is how to kill people with sharp objects.
Foregone Conclusion: There's a flashback chapter in the third book that shows when the Gentleman Bastards and other young gang members were initiated into the order of the Crooked Warden. It's mentioned more than once that there's a chance for someone to be chosen to become a priest or priestess; Sabetha really wants it and Locke does to a lesser extent. People who've read the first two books know that he does become a priest, but not that he was chosen instead of her.
In the chapter where we first learn that the Gray King is a real danger who can kill as he pleases, sorcery is mentioned three separate times, twice even as an offhand explanation for his capabilities that the characters don't follow up on.
And way back when the Thiefmaker was first trying to sell Locke to Father Chains, he mentioned that there were problems with Locke in his care that would vanish if Chains took him in. Chains sarcastically replies with, "Oh. You have a magic boy. Why didn't you say so?" Rather prescient of him, considering we find out in the third book that Locke was a mage in his previous life.
Gambit Pileup: Locke might have done this to himself in the second book. It's also lampshaded by a random Mook who is caught in the middle of a small pileup in the third book.
Gambit Roulette: Aspects of Locke's schemes occasionally fail, but he has an amazing knack for improvising furiously until the important parts of a plan fall into place. He doesn't always get out unscathed, though. And nor do the people he associates with.
Gender Is No Object: Women are just as likely to be fighters and other physical trades as men. It's even an Enforced Trope on the seas, where sailors outright state that women are better sailors than men and it's unlucky to be without at least one on the crew.
Gilligan Cut: In a way. When Locke first meets the Falconer, the book cuts to a short flashback chapter were Chains infodumps Locke (and the reader) about Bondsmagi and why they are not to be screwed with. He concludes with the following warning:
Chains: Sorcery's impressive enough, but it's their fucking attitude that makes them such a pain. And that's why, when you find yourself face to face with one, you bow and scrape and mind your 'sirs' and 'madams'. (chapter break) Locke: Nice bird, arsehole.
Give My Regards in the Next World: Locke delivers a heroic Type 1 to the Gray King's assassin who just killed Bug: "When you see the Crooked Warden, tell him that Locke Lamora learns slowly, but he learns well. And when you see my friends, you tell them that there are more of you on the way."
Gladiator Games: Camorr has a ceremony in which gladiatrixes face off against fantasy sharks.
Gone Horribly Right: Most of Locke's schemes as a child. His plans worked brilliantly, but there tended to be consequences concerning things he either didn't/couldn't know about or didn't factor in, so when things went wrong, they went very wrong. For example, when he first comes to Shades' Hill, he's surplus, a stray who attached himself to the kids the Thiefmaker bought. The Thiefmaker takes him aside and tells him that he'd be happy to train Locke with the others, but he'd need some kind of assurance that Locke would be worth the trouble, at which point Locke produces two purses he stole. That would be ample proof... except that he stole them from the yellowjackets, meaning he broke the Secret Peace by accident. (It gets resolved quickly.)
Gorn: To put it in perspective, the author has received email admonishing him for the salty language used throughout all the books, and responded that he's bemused by swearing drawing such ire rather than the stabbings, poisonings, mutilations, people being eaten by sharks, people being drowned in horse urine, chemical burnings, regular burnings, deaths by insects (there are a few variations on that one), deaths by animals, slashed arteries, lost limbs...some of them as casual entertainment for the wealthy, several committed by the heroes, and all of them pretty graphically described.
Go-to Alias: Locke and Jean have had a lot of aliases in their time... but when pressed for an identity on short notice, they can always fall back on Tavrin Callas. (This is sort of a prank on their part; the first time Jean used that name, he was infiltrating the cult of the death goddess and faked his own suicide. They figure if anyone traces the name far enough back, the followers of the death goddess can declare it a miracle.)
Gray and Grey Morality: The plot to rip off the Salvaras in the first book. The Bastards are out to steal almost half the Salvaras' wealth as part of their religious obligation to humble the rich, but the Salvaras are decent enough sorts. In particular, the Don has at least twice risked his life to defend the helpless. Which may be why the Salvaras come out of the book the heirs apparent to a prestigious post in the five noble families of Camorr.
Guile Hero: Locke uses his wits to succeed, although many of his more physical problems are solved by his sidekick Jean, the toughest fighter yet seen in the series. Their respective weapons sum up their approaches. Jean uses hatchets: versatile, deadly, and intimidating, but tough to conceal. Locke prefers stilettos when he has to fight at all: near-totally useless if an opponent knows you're coming, but easy to hide and perfect for slipping through gaps in an unsuspecting foe's armor.
Locke is instantly smitten with Sabetha and soon afterwards learns that she has red hair, which he thinks is beautiful. When they're older, he tries to convince her that it's proof he loves the real her. Unfortunately, he's unaware he's stepped on an internal landmine - there's a superstition in Jerem that having sex with a virgin red-head will cure all manner of illnesses. They're sometimes even raped to death by a line of the afflicted. For this reason, Sabetha usually keeps her hair dyed or covered. Locke's declaration is the very last thing she ever wants to hear from a potential lover.
Later still, Sabetha worries that her hair might be all he really loves, because the bondsmagi claim that he is the reincarnation of a mage who loved a red-headed woman. However, the readers knows that this isn't true because we see from his perspective that Locke falls in love with her before seeing her hair.
Locke and Jean occasionally argue with each other for the honor of sacrificing themselves for the other's life.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Locke and Jean, who quickly became best friends as kids. They frequently risk their lives for each other, utterly depend on each other, and occasionally argue like an old couple. In the third book it's revealed that Locke told Jean what he thought was his true name, despite never telling his true love Sabetha.
Honor Among Thieves: The Gentlemen Bastards have a strict code of conduct and undying loyalty to each other - even a religious obligation in their theft. Sabetha thinks that raising them with morals was a terrible thing for Chains to have done, even though she shares the same morals herself.
I Know You Know I Know: The Gentlemen Bastards's Kansas City Shuffle scheme with the Salvaras. Locke frequently notes when the Salvaras make comments with double-meanings, comfortable in their belief that Locke is none the wiser, which makes them even easier to manipulate.
I Know Your True Name: If they know your true name (even a fragment) the Bondsmagi can control you. This backfires on the Falconer when Locke reveals that his entire name is assumed.
Indy Ploy: Locke's specialty is improvising, and even his long-term schemes include a lot of improvisation, especially when they start to fall apart.
In Medias Res: Red Seas starts with Locke and Jean already neck-deep in their plan to cheat their way up into Requin's office.
Insult to Rocks: "To say that [Rude Trevor]note a particularly nasty pimp was an intemperate, murderous lunatic would wound the feelings of most intemperate, murderous lunatics."
It's Personal: Nazca was shown to have had a very cordial relationship with the main characters, and was an especially good friend to Locke after he became her first pezon (or gang-member). So when she was killed in that horrible way, there was no doubt shit would hit the fan. Then the Gray King and the Falconer decide to kill the Sanzas and Bug...
Jack of All Stats: The Sanzas. Chains says that they are "silver in all trades and gold in none." They have none of the strengths or weaknesses of the other Bastards. The closest thing to a specialty we get is when Locke says that they're good with knives.
Just Like Robin Hood: The Thorn of Camorr, they say. Notably subverted, though; even he points out (in another guise) that he's not donating money to the poor; he considers the act of stealing from the rich action enough against them. Actually, he and his band kept their vast stolen fortune in a private vault and have no idea what to do with it.
Kansas City Shuffle: The Salvara game is this. The Salvaras know damn well that Locke is trying to con them. What they don't know is that the man who told them about that, and convinced them to play along, was Locke himself in a different disguise. Locke wonders why he never thought of this concept sooner.
Karma Houdini: Jasmer Moncraine appears to be this during the flashback sequences of The Republic of Thieves since he manages to escape Espara with all of the profits made from their performance and leaving the rest of the troupe high and dry. However, with Baron Boulidazi's murder pinned on him by Locke and the others he can never return to Espara, the money will only last a few years anyway, and as Sabetha points out, he's made an enemy of Father Chains, and he'll never be able to stop running, so it's implied Moncraine didn't get away for long.
Kiss of Death: Not actually death, but Sabetha puts a narcotic on her own skin to poison Locke when he kisses her, kidnap him, and put him somewhere out of the way.
Knife Nut: A great many characters use knives as their primary weapons, from hoodlums to bodyguards. Locke, in particular, favors stiletto blades in his sleeves or shoes.
Libation for the Dead: A custom of those sworn to the Nameless Thirteenth. The rite gets performed even for people Locke doesn't know well, or at all, if he perceives the death as unjust and/or the deceased has no one to speak well of them to the more respectable gods.
Look Behind You: Locke hones this technique while fighting the Half-Crowns as a kid. With Jean to back him up. He later pulls it on the Gray King, without the benefit of backup.
Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: The bondsmagi of Karthain think that it is probably what happened to the Eldren civilization, due to their extensive and ostensible use of magic. The bondsmagi very much do not want the same thing to happen to humans, and that is why they are avoid any large-scale, ostensible magical work. It also explain why they are so damn pricky about other magic users.
Loveable Rogue: The Gentlemen Bastards may be thieves, but damn if they aren't loveable.
Love Makes You Evil: Played straight in Republic of Thieves with the story of Pel Acanthus, one of the brightest mage in history, who was a good person (well, for a bondsmage) but when his wife dies, he turns to The Dark Arts to try to resurrect her. He doesn't succeed, but he manages to somehow reincarnate himself in a younger body, in order to have more time to study death magic. The plan backfires: he loses his memories and much of his identity, and his new body has no gift for magic. The result is Locke Lamora.
Mafia Princess: Nazca Barsavi, although she was being groomed to take over the family business.
Magic Genetics: Averted. Although magic is hereditary, it seems to work in a rather complicated and realistic way, likely implying many different genes with interacting expression mechanisms. The result is that "magic does not breed true", and although there used to be bloodlines of mages who bore gifted children more often than not, they have been dissolved to the point where among the ~400 bondsmagi of Karthain only five mages were born of mage parents in the last centuries.
The Magocracy: Karthain is ruled by the bondsmagi. Their rule is not official, but it's not secret either. In theory, Karthain is ruled by a democratically elected body called the Konseil. But they have no real power. The factions of the Bondsmagi manipulate the city's political elections simply for the prestige of "winning." They select which party to champion at random.
The Gray King later takes the name of Capa Raza, which means "revenge", which is the one and only reason why he is in town. He only uses this name after his revenge has been exacted. Locke thinks that it's a little on the nose.
The bondsmagi's assumed names are also self-chosen and usually provide a clue to their bearer's mindset, origins or interests. For example, Coldmarrow named himself in memory of his birthplace (the Kingdom of the Seven Marrows), the Navigator was born on a ship and is obsessed by everything related to the sea, and the Falconer (aside from having a hawk for a familiar) is ruthless as a bird of prey with a facility for manipulating animals.
Patience, formerly the Seamstress, lives up to both of her names. She is patient enough to not destroy Locke's chances with Sabetha and enact her full vengeance until he is no longer of any use to him. And she is named Seamstress for her ability to tailor-fit the punishment to match the crime: In exchange for maiming and crippling her son, who can never know the feeling of magic again, she drives away Locke's love interest and reveals details of his future and past while leaving him uncertain, never giving him a full picture.
Requin literally means "shark" in French. He's scary, but like most dangerous predators, he's not a threat as long as you respect that he is threatening. If he senses weakness or provocation, he shows no mercy.
The Medic: Physikers and their lesser prestigious brethren the "dog-leeches" use the settings's Schizo Tech to heal a variety of illnesses and injuries fairly effectively, often with chemical and/or semi-magical means.
More Expendable Than You: Ezri does this to Jean when he's about to go and grab the shipsbane sphere. In fact, she shoves him into Locke - ensuring neither of them could sacrifice themselves.
More Hero Than Thou: Locke and Jean occasionally argue about gets to volunteer to sacrifice himself for the other. For example, they argue over who's going to take the antidote at the end of the second book.
No Endor Holocaust: Lampshaded. Karthain has enjoyed the protection of the bondsmagi for centuries, and has not maintained its walls or kept a standing army. When the mages leave the city at the end of Republic of Thieves, Jean predicts things will go poorly for Karthain in short order.
The Nondescript: Locke is frequently described as scrawnier than normal, but otherwise he's said to be very nondescript.
Oh My Gods!: "Twelve Gods!" for most people, while Locke and other disreputable characters usually include the god of thieves in the pantheon, making it "Thirteen Gods!" (or "Crooked Warden!" if they're referring to him in particular). Various characters refer to different deities by their preferences as well.
Platonic Prostitution: For a scene in the first book, but only after the more conventional approach fails.
Posthumous Character: Father Chains, the mentor and original garrista of the Gentlemen Bastards, has been dead for a couple of years by the time the main plot of The Lies of Locke Lamora kicks in, and thus only appears in flashbacks to Locke's youth when he was training him and the rest of the Bastards. The Sanza twins become this in Republic of Thieves flashback sequences to the time they spent in Espara learning to be actors, since they both died during the events of Lies.
The Power of Friendship: Locke is a master manipulator, Jean is a skilled fighter, but when it truly came to the edge, when facing the power of the Falconer, none of their talents was useful enough alone. What saved their lives and allowed them to win and give him a Fate Worse Than Death was the fact neither of them would give up and allow the other to be killed.
Precursors: The Eldren, who left entire cities worth of indestructible glass buildings and other artwork. Their civilization pre-dated humanity by several thousand years. Their fate is not entirely known, though the bondsmagi believe that they were wiped out by an Eldritch Abomination of some sort.
Prevent The War: Although the Bondsmagi are very strict in maintaining their monopoly over magic, this is given as the reason they allow the use of alchemy—people are so dependent on it that if it were taken away, they would have no choice but to go to war to try to get it back.
The Prophecy: The Seamstress gives Locke a cryptic prophecy before leaving Karthain, but she also tells him that she might just be making it up, and Locke decides to not let it shake him.
Psycho for Hire: The Falconer is a mercenary Bondsmage, but he really enjoys his work when "his work" means hurting people.
Red Baron: Locke Lamora, the Thorn of Camorr. We later learn that Calo and Galdo created the title as a joke.
Refuge in Audacity: The Gentlemen Bastards exploit this to run their scams against Camorr's nobility, relying on the fact that most of their high-class targets would be too embarrassed to confide in anyone else that they had been swindled in order to keep the true extent of their heists secret and their true identity Shrouded in Myth.
Reincarnation Romance: According to Patience, this is why Locke is attracted to Sabetha. Since her explicit purpose in saying this is to hurt Locke and alienate him from Sabetha, we don't know to what extent it's true (although there is enough evidence to be sure it's not all bullshit).
There's a brief chapter that consist of a folk-tale detailing the tradition in Camorr. They take revenge very seriously.
The Gray King is out for revenge for killing most of his family. He goes on to rip Capa Barsavi's empire out from under him and come close to burning out the brains of most of Camorr's ruling class.
Bondsmagi make it known that killing anyone in their order will get you, everyone you know, and everyone you've ever seen killed in response.
Requin did this to those who burned him and his lady. He begin killing random suspects as well their whole gangs and families, letting it be known that he would continue until the culprit was put before him. Once the culprit turned up, Requin made him beg for death a long time before it came.
Samus is a Girl: The Spider. Sabetha notes that she always suspected this given that the only detail ever stated certainly about the Spider was that he was a man, so it must be false.
Sarcastic Confession: In Republic of Thieves, Sabetha asks Jean to leave her with Locke, and argues that if she had, say, twenty armed guards in the next room, she wouldn't bother asking nicely. It turns out she does have twenty armed guards in the next room.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Requin has a pair in Red Seas Under Red Skies, but they've been alchemized so they don't just reflect light, they permanently glow orange. And they fit him, too.
Schizo Tech: The world lacks explosive weapons or combustion machinery and printing presses are a rare and expensive invention, yet ships are at least 17th century level of sophistication, clockwork machinery and navigational instruments rival late 18th - early 19th century in complexity, "alchemy" provides ubiquitous non-combustion lighting, complex medicines and poisons on par with 20th century chemistry, medicine is at least on par with American Civil War age in ability to cure horrible battle injuries. Justified in-universe as some past ages (the Therin Throne Empire) were far more advanced and current-age people try to recover the lost knowledge.
Self-Made Orphan: At the end of the third book, the Falconer kills his mother, Archedama Patience, by setting a massive flock of crows on her.
Serial Escalation: Locke's thieving spree in the second book. In four hours he steals four purses, a knife, two bottles of wine, a pewter mug, a brooch, gold pins, earrings (while they were being worn), a bolt of silk, a box of sweetmeats, two loaves of bread, and the necklace of the mistress of the governor. In the governor's home. In the governor's bed. With the governor sleeping next to her. Oh, and did we mention that he did this while half drunk?
Stout Strength: Jean is always described as fat, though hard living occasionally shrinks his belly some. However, he's also quite big and quite strong. In a flashback, Locke notes that the adolescent Jean's flab hides the muscles he's been building in his new fighting classes.
Tempting Fate: Locke and Jean are about to sail into a storm, but Jean confidently asserts that experienced sailor Caldris will get them through it. No sooner have the words passed his lips than Caldris staggers in and dies of a heart attack.
Third Act Stupidity: The Falconer realizes that "Lamora" is an obvious pseudonym, but suddenly decides to effectively bet his life on the assumption that Locke is his real first name. Locke even asks him what ever gave him that impression.
This Is Reality: A scene in Red Seas Under Red Skies has Locke and Jean discussing the relative merits of romantic fiction and non-fiction.
Locke: But romances aren't real, and surely never were. Doesn't that take away some of the savor? Jean: What an interesting choice of words. 'Not real, and never were.' Could there be any more appropriate literature for men of our profession? Why are you so averse to fiction, when we've made it our meal ticket? Locke: I live in the real world, and my methods are of the real world. They are, just as you say, a profession. A practicality, not some romantic whim.
To Absent Friends: A tradition of followers of the Nameless Thirteenth is to pour an extra glass for absent friends.
Twin Desynch: In the flashback chapters of The Republic of Thieves, it's revealed that the adolescent Sanzas went through a period of disharmony where they quarreled and tried to individualize themselves. It obviously didn't last.
Two-Faced: Selendri. She was horribly alchemically burned over half her entire body in an assassination attempt on Requin.
Unholy Matrimony: Requin and Selendri are deeply devoted to each other. Their romance has continued even after Selendri was gruesomely disfigured.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We never hear how Locke and Jean intend to get past Requin's vault's allegedly unsurmountable security measures. And we never hear that they weren't actually going after the vault, while their actual plan works perfectly...except that the paintings they steal turn out to be reproductions.
Victory By Endurance: Used twice in Lies where Locke has to buy time for Jean to help him out. As a youth, he ties himself to the leader of a rival gang until Jean arrives, then as an adult he tries the same to take down the Gray King, although this time he uses it as part of a fake-out.
What the Hell, Hero?: Actually pretty common in the series. Jean, Locke and Sabetha are prone to frequently dressing each other down for their poor behavior.
Wicked Cultured: Pretty much everyone, depending on where you draw the "evil" line. Special credit goes to Capa Vencarlo Barsavi, who was a professor of rhetoric before becoming a crime lord, and Jaffrim Rodanov, a pirate captain and former pupil of Barsavi's, who will gladly discuss the merits of Therin playwrights forever when he meets someone else who knows about them.
World of Snark: A "conversation" in this series is usually an elaborate exchange of insults, be it between friends or enemies.
Wretched Hive: Camorr, which has an evil reputation among the other cities. It's so bad that there is a "secret peace" between the nobles and the criminals. As long as you don't target nobles, the police leave you alone. The living conditions for the lower classes are understandably atrocious, with the Cauldron being the worst spot.
You Don't Want to Catch This: Locke and Jean pretend to be what basically amounts to lepers for a little while in Red Seas Under Red Skies. In Lies of Locke Lamora, he pretended to have Black Whisper (a virulent disease that only kills adults) in order to empty out a pub so he and his friends could rob it. It's just too bad that the resulting panic/riot burned it down.