The great thing about Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora (Book 1 of the Gentlemen Bastards series. Followed by Red Seas Under Red Skies and Republic of Thieves) is that it incorporates great character development, world building and lots of plot twists. Since I tend to read fantasy saga for world I’ll start with that. The story is set in the city state of Camorr which looks vaguely like 14th century Venice with lots of canals and rivers and a decidedly mercantile frame of mind. This is a complex and well developed setting with many layers. Camorr was originally built by a people called the Elderen who built the city of a mysterious unbreakable glass called by the current dwellers of Camorr (the Therin) Elderglass. The Therin moved into Camorr long after the Elderen disappeared and build on top of the preexisting city. At one point all the city states of the Therin, including Camorr, were ruled by an emperor. The empire has long since collapsed and the city states are now independent ruled by their own aristocracy.
Into this world steps the main character Locke Lamora. Locke is an orphan and a thief. He is not the usual hansom dashing character. In fact he is small and has a face that is supremely forgettable. He turns this to his advantage though. He and his gang specialize in perpetrating complex con games on the aristocracy of Camorr. This is extremely dangerous not simply because the aristocracy doesn’t like being duped and robbed but also because in the highly complex criminal world of Camorr the first rule is: you can rob anyone except the aristocracy. This is where the plot twists come in. Lamora’s gang is conning the rich, stashing away the money and pretending to be small time crooks to their fellow criminals. This creates complex intertwining plots that leave the reader surprised over and over.
The main story is broken up by a series of interludes which fulfil several purposes. They are on of the main ways of imparting the back story of Lamora and his main lieutenant and friend Jean. These interludes are also one of the places Lynch tells the reader about the history of Camorr. They also provides a nice break in the flow of the story which can get almost too quick at times. While the reader learns about the religious customs of Camorr for example they have time to digest all that happened in the previous chapter.
I’d recommend this book to someone who doesn’t normally like fantasy sagas (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc). Lynch manages to pack a ton of stuff into his book without the reader really noticing it so you can read a fantasy saga without feeling like you are reading a fantasy saga. Similarly I’d recommend it to someone new to the genre who is a little intimidated by series like Game of Thrones.