|The Lies of Locke Lamora||
Two nuclear missiles
The good news: this novel has a great story. The bad news: most of that story is in the last third of the book.
The book gets off to a promising start, as a young orphan boy (Locke) falls in with a gang of thieves, but quickly begins to drag as the thieves plot an elaborate con job that ultimately goes nowhere. I understand traditional fantasy publishers require hefty tomes, but if I’m going to wade through one, I need something special to hold my interest.
Apparently in an attempt to disguise the slow pace, the story begins to jump forward and back in time. This became so distracting that if I had been reading a paper book, I would have cut it apart and tried to piece it back together in chronological order. There were even times when the bouncing around made the story less interesting — when an older orphan boy joins the gang, he seems destined to be a major antagonist for Locke, but it had already been revealed that the two become best buddies. Noticeably, when the story picks up steam in its last third, the chronological jumps cease.
The story takes place in a city reminiscent of medieval Venice, but it’s a “grimdark” setting: public executions of child thieves, orphans routinely sold into slavery, families committing revenge murders against each other. The middle classes are preyed upon by nobles from above and gangs of criminals from below, and the government allows the gangs to operate freely as long as they don’t target the nobles. Most of the named characters are bad, terrible, or horrible people.
Locke’s behavior seems incongruous near the end of the book, when he risks his life to warn his enemies (in person) of an impending danger, even though he’s found scheming ways to accomplish his other goals throughout the book. At the story’s conclusion, he swordfights a combat-experienced pirate, despite having no background in swordfighting and knowing a number of experienced fighters who also want the pirate dead.
I picked up the second book in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, in a buy-one-get-one-free sale, so I’ll give it a shot eventually, but first I need a long vacation from this fantasy world.