Welcome to my first post for The Lies of Locke Lamora read along! This first section covers the prologue and Part I, so up to page 199 in my paperback edition. In that page time, we’re introduced to Locke Lamora and his gang of thieves, the Gentlemen Bastards. The timeline skips between the present, where Locke is running a scam on a wealthy nobleman, and the past, where Locke Lamora is an orphan boy being taken in and taught the trade by Father Chains. Below the cut are my answers to this week’s discussion questions.
1) We get a lot of detail about the city, from architecture and geography to social structure and the Secret Peace – not to mention the food! What do you make of Camorr?
I really love Camorr, and it may be up there with my favorite fantasy settings. It’s just so well rendered! It’s something I’ve talked about in my reviews, but the best fantasy settings feel alive, like they could come right off the page. It’s hard for me to pin down what gives a setting this vividness, but Camorr definitely has it. I think it’s that Camorr has a distinct culture and society which seems realized down to details such as, now that you mention it, the food. Then there’s customs like the monthly festivals and the contrarequialla. I think Camorr avoids the sense of genericness that can sometimes afflict fantasy settings.
2) What are your first impressions of the Gentleman Bastards? They are liars and conmen (and proud of it) – but do you think our thieves have hearts of gold?
I don’t know if they have hearts of gold, but they are sure charming me. I feel like “hearts of gold” tends to imply that they’re stealing for the greater good somehow, as in Robin Hood. Helping the poor, and all that. The Gentlemen Bastards reasons for stealing are primarily selfish.
“I only steal because my dear old family needs the money to live!”
Locke Lamora made this proclamation with his wine glass held high; he and the other Gentleman Bastards were seated at the old witchwood table. . . . The others began to jeer.
“Liar!” they chorused
“I only steal because this wicked world won’t let me work an honest trade!” Calo cried, hoisting his own glass.
“I only steal,” said Jean, “because I’ve temporarily fallen in with bad company.”
At last the ritual came to Bug; the boy raised his glass a bit shakily and yelled, “I only steal because it’s heaps of fucking fun!”
However, these characters are just so much fun! I’m willing to go along with any dubious morality because I’m grinning the entire time I’m reading.
3) Do you find the split timelines a useful device for filling in background without a lot of exposition? Which timeline are you enjoying the most?
I’m liking the split timelines a lot more the second go around. The first time I read The Lies of Locke Lamora they made me so impatient! I wanted to see what would happen next in the current story, and didn’t care so much about Locke’s backstory. This time around I can see how the split timelines are being used to set up information for later in the book as well as some of the foreshadowing going on, particularly the “you have to learn that your actions can hurt other people.”
4) Has anything taken you by surprise so far?
The hawk that darts overhead when they’re scamming Don Lorenzo Salvara! I don’t think I even noticed it the first go around and now it makes me all excited for things to come.
I was also wondering if I’d still enjoy The Lies of Locke Lamora as much as I had when I first read it in sophomore year of high school. Sometimes rereads make me notice things that I hadn’t before, and I think I’m less forgiving of poorly written female characters (or maybe it’s that I now find it easier to articulate why I don’t like something?). Anyway, I remembered that there weren’t any major female characters in The Lies of Locke Lamora, which is something I’ve criticized other epic fantasy novels for. But I still really love The Lies of Locke Lamora, and the lack of a major female character doesn’t seem to make me like it any less (although it’s also interesting to wonder if I would love this book even more if there was a major female character). I think one reason might be that The Lies of Locke Lamora isn’t really “epic” fantasy. It’s too small of a scale. It’s not a story about dynasties or kingdoms, it’s the story of one thief and his small band of fellow thieves. And while there aren’t women among the major characters, there are among the minor characters. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but some of these women will have an effect on the plot. There’s a good post on Feminist Fiction that talk more about The Lies of Locke Lamora and gender, particularly when it comes to things like how the gender ratio of background characters is roughly equal. Beware of spoilers, however.