The Lies of Locke Lamora is funnily enough the first book I have read without owning a physical copy since I was 18. I had it on my Kindle as a part of a huge bundle of books that I downloaded, and because of all the hype and references to it I keep seeing, I decided to give it a go.
I'm still undecided as to whether or not I agree with the punters.
Right off the bat I am going to say this; skipping backwards and forwards between Locke's adolescence and his present is not clever, or mysterious, or even helpful in any way shape or form. What it is, is god damn annoying - and not in the "it's-frustratingly-good" kind of way, but more like the "... really?" variety. I thought this for two reasons; one, it totally breaks up the story and left me struggling to engage with either past or present Locke; and two, it seemingly turns into a way for Lynch to throw in large chunks of exposition, which is then immediately exploited in the following pages. Subtle Scott, really subtle. Something tells me he did this on purpose because he thought it would be clever and original. Something also tells me that the captain of the Titanic thought he could just plow on through the iceberg.
I really think that if this book had followed a much simpler more linear narrative I would have enjoyed it so much more. Locke's childhood and in particular his introduction to Chains and the other Gentlemen Bastards was fantastic, and having it delivered while interspersed with the incredibly tedious business with Don Salvara killed it off a lot. I also think that if I were able to follow Locke's life from beginning to end in sequential order, I would sympathise with him and his compatriots ten fold to what I did. Not only this, but I think it really hampered what was in essence, some excellent world building by Lynch.
In saying all this, one of my favourite parts of the book was the small tale about the uprising of the whores towards the end.
In terms of the writing itself, The Lies of Locke Lamora was beautifully crafted, with some beautiful (if often overly lengthy) descriptions and some great, honest prose. Characterisation waxed and waned for me ... The Gentleman Bastards were a definite highlight, Locke off course wearing the crown. However, most of the other secondary characters seem to be quite shallow in comparison, including first and foremost the Salvaras. This obviously has to do with the fact that 95% of the narrative comes from Locke's perspective, but I felt there were other contributing factors. Some key and potentially interesting characters like the Countess Vorchenza, the Falconer, and the Grey King come to the story quite late, whereas I felt they could have contributed a lot more. Lynch does tease us with a small chapter from Vorchenza's perspective (probably unavoidable on his behalf) which left me feeling he could have used more of from the start. I also questioned the motives of the Grey King in the end ... it all just seemed to come out of nowhere.
One thing I did respect was Locke as a protagonist. He is excellently delivered as a vivacious and entertaining young villain, one with many talents, but not so many as to get him access to the boy-wonder trope of the fantasy genre. In fact, I found him to be quite balanced and realistic.
I questioned the flow and content of the story itself. I appreciate that Lynch has nicely fused several story strands together and created something that is somewhat more complex than the everyday narrative - but I thought it lacked a certain drive or passion towards one goal. I didn't really care about the success of the Salvara job, or who the Grey King was, or how they were going to get out of it all because the story was trying to drive me in too many directions.
All in all I felt that The Lies of Locke Lamora was extremely middle ground in every aspect; not great, but not bad. Usually I find that when fantasy novels are not epically amazing like the works of George R. R. Martin or Brandon Sanderson, they are at least fast and exciting in their simplicity like Stephen Deas, Kristin Cashore, Cinda Williams Chima, et. al. This book, while an enjoyable story and with some great strong points, fails to excel in any one area to make it truly great.
I may get around to reading Red Seas Under Red Skies one day, but it will have to be one where I have little else to read.
I am thinking that now I will return to A Song of Ice and Fire, although there are a few books floating around on my Kindle which are tempting me such as City of Dreams and Nightmare and His Majesty's Dragon. I think I'll end up with A Storm of Swords as I do leave for Europe in just under four weeks and would like to get through it!