Hey everyone! I’m back with another book review. This time, I will be reviewing an adult fantasy that one of my favourite series, The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, has frequently been compared to: The Lies of Locke Lamora.
Locke Lamora and his band of thieves, called The Gentlemen Bastards, launch a complex plot to steal half the fortune of one of the barons in the City of Camorri. However, they become embroiled in the bigger, more dangerous plots of a mysterious man named the Grey King.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Warnings: cursing (high), gore (high), sexual content (medium)
I think this is the first book I’ve read that didn’t get a full score because some things were lacking, but because they were excessive. So it’s safe to say that this book has everything I like in books: dynamic, empathetic characters; complex plots; and interesting world-building. It really does have everything.
First off, the Gentlemen Bastards were really not what I expected. Their little band is just overflowing with friendship, and that’s such a breath of fresh air. You’d be hardpressed to find really close, obvious bonds among gangs of men in a typical pseudo-medieval fantasy, but here you have the Gentlemen Bastards giving each other pep talks and compliments and sympathy. I also really like how hung up Locke is on Sabetha; I find it so amusing and endearing at the same time. You don’t find a lot of male characters like that, especially when the love interest in question never even appeared once in the book.
There’s been a lot of discourse recently about gender parity especially in SFF fiction, and while this book is mostly male-centric (the majority of the main players in the book are men), the society that the author has created does not exclude women from attaining important positions. As a matter of fact, he takes care of always saying “men and women” or “boys and girls” for any profession at all. Most of the male characters don’t underestimate or undervalue their female peers at all. Additionally, several of the most important players, though minor, are women. So I find that in a way, this world is more balanced than say, Mistborn, where one of the major characters is a girl but she’s really the only female in the book’s world that makes an impact in the plot.
The plot of this book is quite complex, though I don’t know how much of that is due to the back-and-forth style of writing that the author employs. There are multiple players in the story, every single one trying to achieve some goal, but they sort of get caught up in each others’ threads. There’s a lot of foiled plans, a lot of close calls and goose chases. The characters are smart, but quite morally deprived. I think Locke and his band of thieves are only one sliver away from the moral depravity of the villain. That’s why I found it quite funny when Locke and the Grey King were each trying to guilt-trip the other near the conclusion of the story.
The magic system in the book isn’t as elaborate as the one in The Legend of Eli Monpress, which is another band-of-thieves-doing-heists type of book. The magic here is less systematic, doesn’t seem to adhere to a lot of rules, and most people don’t know how some of the magical things in their world came about. There are mages that can do pretty much anything to a person; other than that, the other uses of magic seem to be functional in the way we would use electricity today.
I’ll digress for a paragraph just to make a small comparison with The Legend of Eli Monpress, because it is that book that encouraged me to read this one. Eli and Locke are very similar in their styles of thieving, and probably even their looks, but that’s where the similarities stop. I would say that Locke is borderline sociopathic (at least at the beginning when he felt invincible… Locke’s character arc was definitely humbling), whereas Eli puts on airs to hide the fact that he’s ultimately struggling with his self-worth. LoEM is also a lot more epic in its style of fantasy, whereas LoLL is constrained to the affairs of a select few in a single city. The biggest difference is probably the feel of the books. While both books can be quite whimsical, LoEM employs the light-hearted-to-grim transition common in shounen anime, whereas LoLL is grimmer the entire way through.
All right, now for the con. I think I’ve spent too much time in MG fantasy recently, because this book feels so long. And I don’t mean that there are too many pages; I mean, the story is made to feel long by the heaps of description that I believe can really be cut down quite a bit. When I was about 60% of the way through, it was common for me to skip pages at a time at the beginning of each chapter, where there are paragraphs upon paragraphs of scene descriptions. It was also common for me to skip the following interludes altogether. At first I was reluctant to do this because I thought that these interludes would foreshadow a twist later on, but as far as I can tell, only a couple of them did, and even then, the interludes could have been half the size without decreasing the effect of the foreshadowing. But then again, I’m a pretty impatient person, so I think if you’re the type to slow down and savour a book, this would not be a problem for you.
And that’s about all I have to say. I would definitely pick up the sequel because I’m hoping Sabetha’s in there. I have a feeling I’ll really like her.