I read a lot of books. I read a lot of good books. Hell, I usually rate most of the books I read 4+ stars because, as a reader, it doesn’t take a lot to please me and it takes a helluva lot to make me think a book isn’t enjoyable. That being said, The Lies of Locke Lamora deserves a category all of it’s own. This book…it is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. And considering I got made fun of in middle school for reading like it was the only way I could breathe, that statement says a lot. To read something so…refreshing, is an experience I don’t usually get to undergo very often. And it wasn’t just the story itself, that I enjoyed immensely, that made this book so enjoyable and so difficult to put down. It wasn’t the fantastic world and its rich depth. It wasn’t the beautiful banter, heart-wrenching one-liners or the wide array of tone that constantly awed me. It wasn’t even the amazing chemistry between the characters, who I got ridiculously attached to (to the point that I unconsciously wrote my short story with my protagonist named Lanora and named my four cannibal characters on board game night after the four Gentlemen Bastards). No, what made this book so damn enjoyable and refreshing was the beautiful, expertly unique way it was written.
It all went downhill on page 466.
You see, when I first started reading this book, I was constantly in a state of tension. As the world and the characters were being introduced and I immediately fell in love with Locke Lamora and his knack for antics (and his natural genius), I was constantly waiting for something to go wrong. Especially as we were thrown into Locke’s most recent brilliant thieving scheme. I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t be lured into a sense of false security. I couldn’t trust that things were going to continue going right. I wasn’t that lucky and neither was Locke, even though he thought he was. I had to be ready for everything to go downhill.
The first one hundred pages went by.
Then the next.
And the next.
Suddenly, without even realizing that I had fallen into the false comfort that I was so determined to avoid when I first started out, I wasn’t nervous at all. I had the utmost confidence in Locke and the rest of the Gentlemen Bastards. They were going to pull of their scheme. They were going to continue twisting everyone to their rules and whims. They were going to evade the Grey King. They were going to continue weaseling out of Barsavi’s fingertips. I had no doubts. No fears.
And then I reached page 466.
I’m not talking about simple ways to stand out, writing wise, like vocabulary usage or expert sentence crafting (both which were still present within this novel). I’m talking about the actual way it was written. I think the book incorporated three main elements that shaped this: chapters set in the present, set in the past (usually told through Interludes) or focused on worldbuilding. We would start reading in one of these elements–let’s say the present, to make things simple–reading about Lukas Fehrwight planning to steal from Don Lorenzo Salvara, for example. Then, at a very pivotal moment, the chapter ends and the next chapter is set in the past, when Locke is but a mere boy trying to past another of Chain’s tests. We’re angry that we just got taken away from what we really cared about, yet we are suddenly engrossed at what is happening “now”, in the past. I’m sure you can guess what happens next: at that pivotal moment, when our emotional investment is at its peak, we are ripped away into another element. That’s been done in books before, this playing with time. I’ve always been impressed by this. Yet then you incorporate the worldbuilding–entire chunks of chapters thrown in, interrupting the narrative to describe how a certain game is played or how one culture has these quirks–and suddenly, you’re not just playing with time, but you feel like you’re getting a crash course in Camorr history. These interruptions feel like exactly that, these random insertions of knowledge that usually aren’t written so bluntly, so encyclopedia-esqe. And you would think that the natural reaction would be to blink in confusion at these interruptions to the main narrative. Yet that was never the case. Every break, every switch in time or character, every history lecture…it always tied back together and made the utmost sense. Every single time.
I had the unfortunate luck to not read through The Lies of Locke Lamora as quickly as I wanted to (translation: in one sitting). Life, as it does, would get in the way, causing me to go days without reading. Thankfully, the story was never difficult to get back into and always easy to re-engross myself exactly where I left off.
One evening, at work, I innocently picked it back up and decided to sneak in a few chapters before we closed the library. It’d been a few days since I got to read and I really needed to get back into Locke’s life. I opened the book and began reading the last paragraph on page 465.
My coworkers stared at me in startled surprise when I threw the book down against the desk, inhaling rather sharply, after barely dipping into page 466.
My trust had been broken. The realization that I had built up a false comfort at all finally dawned. I reread sentences, trying to piece together the reality of what I just read. And I forced myself to continue for a few more pages before work got in the way.
Three days without reading in protest.
How could you?
I was blown away by Lynch’s mastery. How he could interweave so many threads at once and never make me feel lost. How I slowly learned how to pick up on how different threads would connect to the main narrative before reaching the obvious connections. I will never fully understand how purposefully every chapter must have been placed, every clue and hint dropped, in order to make this book as unique and fantastic to read as it was. How any author could be so talented to purposefully create this almost seems unfair. And brilliant. And completely jaw-drop worthy. And he standards that the rest of the series has now risen to, after reading The Lies of Locke Lamora? Lynch has skyrocketed to hang amongst the top of my favorite authors’ list, but he will have to pull a very Locke-like stunt to surpass the book that made me fall in love with said character with his other works.
I’m very, very eager to find out if he does.