This book… read it. The end. Not really, but that is definitely the gist of this review. I will do my very best to avoid any spoilers because you need to experience this book for yourself.
Scott set his tale in Camorr, a fictional city in a network of island countries that seem both familiar and foreign. With its multiple moons and monstrous sea creatures that Camorr is built around the ruins of an ancient and strangely powerful alien civilization referred to as the Eldren, seems almost a natural addition to Lynch’s setting. He paints a backdrop every bit as colorful, intriguing, and mysterious as his characters.
Lynch begins his story with a startling and abrupt introduction to the man who wishes nothing more than to wash his hands of the title character. From the very first sentence he draws the reader in, using just enough intrigue to make the reader curious and eager to learn more. Lynch grants us a slow introduction to the quietly infamous Locke Lamora, flipping between what the reader understands is the contemporary timeline and the ‘interludes’ which describe Lamora’s education and upbringing in his craft from childhood. However, it is not just Locke that we gain acquaintance with, but the whole of his Gentlemen Bastards crew, from his crotchety but brilliant teacher, Chains, to the Sanza twins, little Bug, and Jean Tannen. Jean Tannen! I have not words to describe the excellence of this character. He is brilliant. Lynch could have written a ten page companion story to this novel about Jean Tannen and I would line up for hours (days) and pay an extortionate fee for the chance to read it. Lynch’s characters as a whole simply take on a life of their own. I believe that were I to set down this novel to find myself in the company of all of the Gentleman Bastards as they sat round a table and played cards, I would not be the least bit surprised at their presence. They jump off the page. Wow, I’m totally gushing… Lynch also has a way of making his villains creatures of disgust and intrigue. Not since Rowling’s Bellatrix Lestrange have I encountered antagonists so horrifying and terrible, so enigmatic.
As for the story, Lynch has a way of feeding the reader seemingly inane details that are easily dismissed until they crop up again and suddenly their importance is painfully evident. He does this frequently. I found myself searching for these details (and it could be simply because I am bad at this) but I never spotted the right one. This author also has a habit of flipping between the past and present at crucial moments. More than once I found myself setting the book down to calm my beating heart only to realize that the next page was another interlude. It would be easy to find these interruptions frustrating, infuriating, even, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re so damned interesting themselves. Bits and pieces of Locke’s life fall into our laps as we flip between times. We learn more of each of the Bastards, or their mentor, of the city, of the gods their culture worships… these interludes are a veritable ocean of background information that the reader grows to crave. His plot is a thing of genius. It’s sort of like the plot of Love Actually– everybody has a link to somebody else and it all ties together in the end. Lynch’s links are between an intricate web of sub-plots rather than people. Every detail has its place in bring the story completely together. It could easily have become tangled and convoluted, frustrating the reader and becoming a confusion of unresolved plots, but Lynch navigates this possible hazard with little trouble.
Honestly, this is the best book I’ve read in a while. I am genuinely excited by it and want to share it with you. It is, of course, this week’s recommendation. Pick up a copy as soon as you can, bunker down with food and wine and brace yourself to be genuinely dazzled by Lynch’s beautiful and exceptional writing. Happy reading!