Reviews: Gentleman Bastard

The Lies of Locke Lamora: It's average at best.

It took me a good six months to finish this book and I feel the need to vent. The Lies Of Locke Lamora is set in a fantastic version of Venice called Camorr; a city full to the brim with crooks, creeps and crazy people. Our heroes include a con artist called Locke, his best friend Jean, and their crew, "The Gentleman Bastards".

The story is pretty simple: The Bastards are undertaking a con where they happen across a larger conspiracy which threatens to destroy their home. What follows is a load of double-crossing, mouth-shooting, blood-and-guts fun. However, there were a number of flaws that buggered my enjoyment and discouraged me from reading the next book:

It's too long. What we have is a thriller that's bogged down in so much detail act that it feels like watching a whole movie in slow-motion. The first three paragraphs of every chapter describe either the masonry or the customs of Camorr. There are amusing anecdotes here and there but they all say the same thing - that Camorr is full of crooks, creeps and crazy people and this fact is hammered again and again. This is a 300 page story stretched to 500. It's as if Harry Dresden were written by Robert Jordan. There are clever parts but they're all buried under countless descriptions of bloody Elderglass.

The Characters. Despite the length of this book, the characters seem thinly drawn. Locke is a con artist with a heart while Jean is his sidekick and blood brother. These two aren't deep or anything but they all right as main characters. The story is inter-cut with flashbacks of the two growing up in the trade but these are pretty much for the sake of more world-building. They don't shed anything new, only establishing what we already know. Everyone else is pretty much forgettable. When the author starts giving them the boot I was neither shocked nor saddened.

Finally, the last act. As the book goes on the author sets up more and more stakes, and I wondered how our heroes could overcome these difficulties. I was to be disappointed. In one long scene before the climax, everything is tied up in a manner so easily that when the final battle comes, it's a damp squib because there's nothing at stake. Imagine if John McClane in Die Hard resolved the situation peacefully, and then fought Hans Gruber over a parking space.

In total, I enjoyed this book but I can't recommend it.

Improves as it goes.

I picked up this book with somewhat high expectations, and at first I was disappointed by it. It seemed too flashy, trying to impress the reader with its 'bad-ass' world and characters without providing much depth. I often found my suspension of disbelief tested (that much crime and death in a city of 88,000?). However, the book's cliches were at least the sort of cliche that makes for an exciting story, so I read on.

I was glad I did. The tale soon delved deeply into the lives of the main characters, with flashbacks that were just as interesting as the main plot-line. And I have to give the author credit-he was NOT afraid to embroil our heroes in some truly sticky situations. Before long, the depth of the trouble that the Gentlemen Bastards (the small gang of thieves that are the story's protagonists) had gotten into was truly astounding. I became more and more engaged. Even bits of world-building that had seemed annoyingly frivolous or implausible at the beginning of the book took on new facets. By the end of the novel I was completely engrossed; I cared about the characters, and furthermore, I believed every word, action, and detail on the page. I will definitely be picking up the second book of this series in the near future.

More People Should Read These

I've read both of the currently released books twice and contributed to the editing of the TV Tropes page quite a bit (as a quick look at the edits history will attest), so I think I'm pretty qualified to say that the Gentleman Bastard sequence is awesome.

The world is well-thought out and feels immensely lived-in and alive. There's a myriad of cultures and backgrounds to puzzle out. Everything is logical and fits together perfectly, and I'm still figuring out what every Fantasy Counterpart Culture is.

But you don't come for the world, you come for the wit. Scott Lynch is an intelligent man and it really shows. Every single character is genuinely funny and smart (and I mean genuinely, not some of the stuff that passes for Witty Banter in most fantasy books), and the same charm is even reflected in clever prose every once in a while. Everyone's favorite smartass Locke always has the best (or worst, depending on how advisable it is for him to shut his mouth at the moment) remark for the occasion, and Jean is always ready to return a volley of banter.

The plots are just as clever as the characters are, too. The first book had me laughing at the incredulity of some of the schemes, and the second was more of the same, plus so many intertwined layers and webs of lies that it was incredible Locke could even keep track of it all. Each time, the Gentleman Bastards bite off more than they can chew and end up saving the day for more than just themselves. (Although the series isn't without its Bittersweet Endings and Tear Jerkers.) There were some frustrations in the books (Sabetha's aggravating lack of appearance, for example, or the sense of disconnectedness in the second book because of the nature of the plot), but they were minor and easily overlooked since the remainder of the material was just so cool.

If you like fantasy literature of any kind, if you like loveable, clever characters and fantastic schemes, I recommend this book. I recommend this book even if you don't like those things. Hopefully my ramblings have convinced someone, because this series deserves more fans.