Books that make you weep with envy

Otherwise known as part one of the Thirty Twenty-six Day Week Book Challenge. Gosh, that’s really snappy, isn’t it? I think I might start to abbreviate that as the 26WBC. Anyway, the first challenge is for The best book you have read in the past 12 months.

Funnily enough, if you’d asked me this two months ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer it. I read a lot of books and I enjoy a lot of books, but I don’t often rank them in my head. But then I read The Lies of Locke Lamora, and was completely blown away by it.

The first sentence alone is worth it:

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately trying to sell him the Lamora boy.

It starts grand, with lots of confusing names and a priest and– wait, is he trying to sellboy??

It’s going to be a bit of a job to try and explain exactly why I love this book so much, but I’ll give it a go.

First off, Locke Lamora is a thief and conman. Observant readers of my blog will have noticed that my own trilogy centres around thieves (and sorcerers), so that gives an instant kinship on my part. I’ve always had this thing about fantasy thieves anyway – whenever I did tabletop roleplay I’d always play a rogue, and that’s actually how Chiarin originally came into existence.

Secondly, it’s so unashamedly, unabashedly unapologetic about absolutely anything. Children sold as oar-slaves or cocksuckers? Sure, why not. Conning people by pretending to be a blind priest of a different god than the one you actually follow? Check. Punching old ladies in the face? Check. I don’t believe there is anything that Scott Lynch wouldn’t consider, and it’s awesome.

Thirdly, the language used by the characters is just as unapologetic as the content. Some of the insults used are little gems of creativity that I wish I could use on some people at work, except I’d get my arse fired if I did. The main one that springs to mind at the moment is actually from the sequel, Red Seas under Red Skies, but how can you not grin when someone is called a ‘goat-faced wad of slipskin shit’? (Slipskin being a highly contagious, incurable disease.)

The language in general is very much to my liking as well. The world is painted beautifully, but it’s handed out in small dollops, each designed to give a little more depth to the setting, the watery city-state of Camorr. At first it makes you think of Venice, and then you come across this paragraph:

From the heights of the Five Towers to the obsidian smoothness of the vast glass breakwaters to the artificial reefs beneath the slate-coloured waves, Falselight radiated from every surface and every shard of Elderglass in Camorr, from every speck of the alien material left so long before by the creatures that had first shaped the city. Every night, as the west finally swallowed the sun, the glass bridges would become threads of firefly light; the glass towers and glass avenues and the strange glass sculpture-gardens would shimmer wanly with violet and azure and orange and pearl-white, and the moons and stars would fade to grey.

It’s beautiful, evocative, and it makes you see it in your head. Also, that’s only two sentences. As someone who stitches her own sentences together with endless commas, that rather gives me a punctuation-orgasm.

I love how something happens in the book, and then there’s an ‘interlude’ afterwards that more or less explains what just happened, or how it happened. If that sounds strange, you probably have to read it to understand it. In a way the ‘this is what happens’ chapters are like little cliffhangers that just make you want to read on and find out how the hell that just happened.

I love how Locke is the biggest smartass in the city, and his reflexive sarcasm. When climbing out a window with his friend Jean (to stay out of sight of the people downstairs), he passes the window of a woman who is just ejecting her lover out of said window so her husband doesn’t find out about her adultery. Both woman and lover are of course rather surprised to find Locke and Jean there, and the woman kicks up a racket. Locke’s response:

Madam, you’re complicating our night, so before we come in and complicate yours, kindly cork your bullshit bottle and close the gods-damned window.

When this doesn’t work and they end up in her room anyway, the husband arrives. The woman has initially been cheering on her lover against Locke and Jean, then she tries to set her husband on them. But then Jean kicks his arse, and she tries to get Jean to throw her husband out the window. Locke’s response?

For the love of the gods, madam, can you please pick one man in your bedroom to cheer for and stick with him?

Locke also has a remarkable pain threshold, and an often startling disregard for his own personal safety. If someone tries to force him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he’ll insult them to their faces with similarly ingenious insults as the one listed above, even if said person is perfectly capable of killing him where he stands. You’ve just got to admire his sheer chutzpah.

The book is ridiculously clever, with plot twists and turns that either make you grin from ear to ear or make you cry. Locke thinks on his feet, and will happily go off to con someone without having a clue about how to do it. He trusts that it’ll come to him when he gets there, and his ability to judge a situation and turn it to his advantage makes for fantastic reading. This was one of those books that made me want to never write a single sentence again, because I’ll never reach that kind of genius. It also was one of those books where you can’t go straight into another book once you finish it. You have to let it rest for a few days, because there’s just no way you can let that world and those people go yet, and dive into another world.

So yeah, the last time I felt like this about a book it was Surface Detail by Iain M Banks, and I read that back in the summer of 2011. I’ve been trying to shove this book down my husband’s throat ever since I finished it, but he refuses to budge. (Says he promised to read a certain author friend’s book first. *glares at Hillary*)

If you only read one book about thieves in your entire life, don’t read mine. Read this one instead.


2 thoughts on “Books that make you weep with envy

  1. H. Anthe Davis

    Well fine, you can tell him to put mine aside. I added that Wes/Sanava scene, after all, and my Nitpicker Beta just finished her first read-through and is going for a more in-depth one. Might be some adjustments to be made.

    But yeah, I support The Lies of Locke Lamora. Damn the man, his worldbuilding feels so fluid and seamless…


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