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If I were to do a one word review for this book it would be: Badass.
Feel free to stop reading now, the rest of this review is basically fluff, but since I have a particular fondness for writing fluffy book reviews I will proceed.
Oh good, you decided to come along.
Locke Lamora is the leader of a gang of thieves dubbed the Gentleman Bastards. This group of orphaned young men were educated and trained to become masterful thieves by a man called Father Chains. Chains was the Eyeless Priest of Perelandro, the thirteenth of the twelve gods, Lord of the Overlooked. Father Chains was not eyeless.
The city of Camorr was built upon the Elderglass ruins of an alien race, interlaced with canals infested with wolf sharks and other niceties from the Iron Sea. Duke Nicovante reigned over the nobility and lawful citizens, and Capa Vencarlo Barsavi reigned over the lawless. A Secret Peace existed between these two men, the nobility were to be left untouched and Capa Barsavi would be left to manage his gangs—which he did—ruthlessly.
Locke: “So I don’t have to…”
Father Chains: “Obey the Secret Peace? Be a good little pezon? Only for pretend, Locke. Only to keep the wolves from the door. Unless your eyes and ears have been stitched shut with rawhide these past two days, by now you must have realized that I intend you and Calo and Galdo and Sabetha to be nothing less,” Chains confided through a feral grin, “than a fucking ballista bolt right through the heart of Vencarlo’s precious Secret Peace.”
And this is just the beginning. The first hundred pages ticked by, the next hundred flew, the next three hundred had me up late at night with burning eyes. It found me yelling, “Just a minute!!” as I stole time from Hillsboro to get back to the sultry heat of Camorr. Then in a flash, it was over. I set my book down and said something brilliant like, “That. Was. Aweeesome.”
One Complaint: Alchemy exists in Camorr—and boy does it ever. It is applied to everything. There are alchemical lights, alchemical fruits, alchemical liquor, alchemical drugs, alchemical formaldehyde, alchemical make-up, alchemical toilet paper that removes all poo leaving a scent of roses behind. Just kidding on the last one, but it felt like that.
With GRRM like brutality, we lose several favorite characters and favorite villains. I always admire authors who can expend so much effort building characters only to kill them off. It would be like spending months building an incredible sand sculpture, then sending some toddlers to stomp all over it. Then instead of lamenting the lost effort, the artist then goes ahead creates something even better.
The plot gets so tense at times I would audibly sigh with relief when it was over. “Are you O.K.?” I heard more than once. In idle moments, or sometimes not so idle moments, my mind would wander back into the story to figure out where it would go next, or to guess at the fate of a imperiled character.
Backstory is given in small digestible chunks that is relevant to current action in the story. At first the sojourns into backstory was annoying and a little confusing, but either it got better or I got used to it and I started appreciating the context it brought to the story.
Best of all there are more books! Second best of all—this book stands on its own. It did not end in the middle of a story, nor did it, in the last hundred pages, invent a dozen new stories then end… Unlike some other authors I know. (Oh yes, I'm looking at you GRRM and Pat Rothfuss.)
Just kidding, love you guys—beards rule!