I recently finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It was one of the longer books I’ve attempted since my attention span has been negatively affected by working full time, depression/anxiety, etc.
That said, I’m glad I read it, though I don’t think I could in all honesty put it on a list of must reads.
Lynch is a master of world building. He writes this beautiful world as if the reader is part of it. He does not explain what he means when he describes the seasons, the gods, or the time of day. He does not need to. His lack of explanation makes their existence absolutely believable, infallibly real. Even objects that exist in this universe and that universe are written from the perspective of someone from Locke’s world (I’m thinking, specifically, of the word “optics” used for “glasses,” a small touch that absolutely enhanced and reinforced the world of Locke Lamora–it’s a great example of texturizing detail).
Not only that, there was just so much to the world that it was easy to realize that the single city explored in the first novel is part of something bigger, richer than itself. I don’t really get that feeling when I read a lot of modern fantasy, so to see such a reality so masterfully scripted–I was awed.
I struggle with world building. I struggle with it a lot. It’s one of the major weaknesses of my own writing, and something that I am attempting to rectify, a muscle I am attempting to train and strengthen. It is for this reason alone that I will probably continue to read the rest of the Gentleman Bastard series, of which the Lies of Locke Lamora is the first volume. I have a lot to learn from Scott Lynch.
Now that I’ve made my courtesies to the author, I have to admit that there was a lot about Lies of Locke Lamora of which I was not a huge fan, but that is mostly because our writing philosophies are incredibly different (which is no surprise seeing as we are different people with different tastes).
I find it incredibly sad and disappointing that despite the rich world that Lynch had created, there were so few women who were part of the story. I can think of five major women off the top of my head. One, a fellow Gentleman Bastard I suppose, was always referred to off screen. The other was the wife of the noble they were conning and had very few scenes of her own. The third was the daughter of the ruling gang-king who was drowned in horse urine. Then there were the twins who were accomplished fighters and they also died–and they were almost always considered as a singular entity instead of their own persons.
So, that made me feel, in a lot of ways, unwelcome to the party? And even though most of the men that comprised Locke’s gang also died, it just was frustrating that there were so few women with major roles and that so many of them died–particularly in very bloody and violent ways.
Additionally, the entire novel was comprised around this idea of vengeance and violence–I am not particularly interested in these themes, especially when they appear in collusion with the absence and death of women and are orchestrated by men as reactions to these missing women. Beyond that, I am someone who does not want violence to be celebrated or to be so taken for granted that the narrative can find no other means of absolution or resolution. All the major players, including Locke, choose a course of violence and vengeance. Sometimes it works out for them, sometimes it doesn’t.
For me personally, such stories provide me very little insight, and I bore quickly of them.
Some might say that such a stance is unrealistic, that violence is a certainty in the world and that any other course would be unrealistic. Violences, both large and small, both bloody and bloodless, are enacted today. But so is non violence.
But as I said, despite my philosophical differences with Scott Lynch, I will be reading the rest of the Gentleman Bastard series, if only because Lynch’s technique is so very good.