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Geeks Friday Read: The Lies of Locke Lamora plus an extract

liesof lockeSince it’s publication week for the eagerly awaited (and brilliant) The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, we thought it only fitting to share with you what the Geeks made of Scott’s earlier work, namely The Lies of Locke Lamora. And guess what? They only bloody love it. This week’s Geek reviewer is Mike Kerr, and we publish his review here with his kind consent. 

For those Geeks who weren’t lucky enough to get a copy this time, there is good news. For a limited time only, the eBook edition is just 99p from your favourite online retailers. That’s a lot of Bastard for your buck. And, because of our kindly hearts, we’re also sharing a prologue extract of The Lies of Locke Lamora with you here. Just scroll down after Mike’s review to start reading. 

The Lies of Locke Lamora

This debut novel comes across as the meeting of a classic con caper with alternative world 15th century Florence. The Gentlemen Bastards are a group of con artists looking to pull off a swindle by selling a nobleman a rare wine.

Lynch introduces his main character slowly and gives you his backstory, which somehow makes Locke seem more real and believable. He also uses this part of the story to build the world credibly and makes it seem somewhere you would want to wander round and poke into a few corners (carefully !).

The writing style is absorbing, and while you never get inside his head you feel you are hanging around at the edge of the action watching everything happening and keeping your fingers crossed for them to succeed. I always know that I’ve enjoyed a book if I get to the end and feel sorry that there wasn’t a few more chapters to go, this is the case here. I know there is another book in the series and I am looking forward to reading that asap to find out what the bunch of rogues get up to next.

Read this book – you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks to Mike for his review. 

PROLOGUE

The boy who stole too much

1

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 hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.

‘Have I got a  deal for you!’ the Thiefmaker began, perhaps inauspiciously.

‘Another deal like Calo and Galdo, maybe?’ said the Eyeless Priest. ‘I’ve still got my hands full training those giggling idiots out of every bad habit they picked up from you and replacing them with the bad habits I need.’

‘Now, Chains.’ The Thiefmaker shrugged. ‘I told you they were shit-flinging  little  monkeys when we made the deal, and it  was good enough for you at the—’

‘Or  maybe another deal like  Sabetha?’  The  priest’s richer, deeper voice chased the Thiefmaker’s objection right back down his throat. ‘I’m sure you recall charging me everything but my dead mother’s kneecaps for her. I should’ve paid you in copper and watched you spring a rupture trying to haul it all away.’

‘Ahhhhhh, but she  was special, and this boy, this boy, he’s special too,’ said the Thiefmaker. ‘Everything you asked me to look for after I sold you Calo and Galdo. Everything you liked so much about Sabetha! He’s Camorri, but a mongrel. Therin and Vadran blood. He’s got larceny in his heart,  sure as the sea’s full of fish piss. And I can even let you have him at a . . . a discount.’

The Eyeless Priest spent a long moment mulling this. ‘You’ll pardon me,’ he finally said, ‘if experience suggests that I would be wise to meet unexpected generosity  from you by arming myself and putting my back against a wall.’

The Thiefmaker tried to let a vaguely sincere expression scurry onto his face, where it froze in evident discomfort. His shrug was theatrically casual. ‘There are, ah, problems with the boy, yes. But the problems are unique to his situation in my care. Were he under yours, I’m sure they would, ahhhh, vanish.’

‘Oh. Oh. You have a magic boy. Why didn’t you say so?’ The priest scratched his forehead beneath the white silk blindfold that covered his eyes. ‘Magnificent. I’ll plant him in the fucking ground and grow a vine to an enchanted land beyond the clouds.’

‘Ahhhhh! Ah ah ah, I’ve tasted that flavour of sarcasm from you before, Chains.’ The Thiefmaker gave an arthritic mock bow. ‘Is it really so hard to say that you’re interested?’

The  Eyeless  Priest spat. ‘Suppose  Calo, Galdo and Sabetha might be able to use a new playmate, or at least a punching bag. Suppose I’m willing to spend about three coppers and a bowl of piss for an unlooked-for mystery boy. What’s the boy’s problem?’

‘His problem,’ said the Thiefmaker, ‘is that if I can’t sell him to you, I’m going to have to slit his throat and throw him in the bay. And I’m going to have to do it tonight.’

2

On the night the Lamora boy had come to live under the Thiefmaker’s care, the old graveyard on Shades’ Hill  had been full of children, standing at silent attention and waiting for their new brothers and sisters to be led down into the mausoleums.

The Thiefmaker’s wards all carried candles; their cold blue light shone through the silver curtains of river mist as street  lamps might glimmer through a smoke-grimed  window. A chain of ghostlight wound its way down from the hilltop, through the stone markers and ceremonial paths, down to the wide glass  bridge over the Coalsmoke canal, half-visible in the bloodwarm fog that seeped up from Camorr’s wet bones on summer nights.

‘Come now my loves, my jewels, my newlyfounds, keep the pace,’ whispered the Thiefmaker as  he nudged the last of the thirty or so Catchfire orphans over the Coalsmoke bridge. ‘These lights are just your new friends, come to guide your way up my hill. Move now, my treasures. There’s darkness wasting, and we have so much to talk about.’

*

In rare moments of vain reflection, the Thiefmaker thought of himself as an artist. A sculptor, to be precise, with orphans  as his clay and the old graveyard on Shades’ Hill  as his studio.

Eighty-eight thousand  souls generated  a certain steady volume of waste; this waste included a constant trickle  of lost, useless and abandoned children. Slavers got some of them, to be sure – hauling them off to Tal Verarr or the Jeremite islands. Slavery was technically illegal in Camorr, but the act of enslavement  itself was winked at if there was no one left to speak for the victim.

So, slavers  got some, and plain stupidity  took a  few more. Starvation and the diseases it brought were also common ways to go for those that lacked the courage or the skill to pluck a living from the city around them. And then, of course, those with courage but no skill often wound up swinging from the Black Bridge in front of the Palace of Patience. The Duke’s magistrates disposed of little thieves with the same rope they used on bigger ones, though they did see to it that the little ones went over the side of the bridge with weights tied to their ankles to help them hang properly.

Any orphans left after dicing with all of those colourful possibilities were swept up by the Thiefmaker’s own crew, brought in one at a time or in small groups to hear his soothing  voice and eat a hot meal. Soon enough they would learn what sort of life awaited them beneath the graveyard that was the heart of his realm, where seven score cast-off children bent the knee to a single bent old man.

‘Quick-step, my lovelies, my new sons and daughters; follow the line of lights and step to the top. We’re almost home, almost fed. Out of the rain and the mist and the stinking heat.’

Plagues were a time of special opportunity for the Thiefmaker, and the Catchfire orphans had crawled away from his very favourite sort: Black Whisper. It fell on the Catchfire district from points unknown, and the quarantine had gone up (death by clothyard shaft for anyone trying to cross a canal or escape on a boat) in time to save the rest of the city from everything but unease and paranoia. Black Whisper meant a miserable death for anyone over the age of eleven or twelve (as near as physikers  could figure, for the plague was not content to reap by overly firm rules) and a few days of harmless swollen  eyes and red cheeks for anyone younger.

By the fifth day of the quarantine there were no more screams and no more attempted  canal crossings, and so Catchfire evaded the namesake fate that had befallen it so many times before in years of pestilence. By the eleventh day, when the quarantine  was lifted and the Duke’s ghouls went in to survey the mess, perhaps one in eight of the four hundred children previously living  there had survived the wait. They had already formed gangs for  mutual protection and learned certain cruel necessities  of life  without adults.

The Thiefmaker was waiting as they were coralled and led out from the sinister silence of their old neighbourhood.

He paid good silver for the best thirty,  and even more good silver for the silence of the ghouls and constables he relieved of the children. Then he led them, dazed and hollow-cheeked  and smelling like hell, into the darkness and the steambath mists of the Camorri night, towards the old graveyard on Shades’ Hill.

The Lamora boy was the youngest and smallest of the lot, five or six years old, nothing but jutting bones under skin rich with dirt and hollow  angles.  The  Thiefmaker hadn’t even chosen him; Lamora  had simply crept away with  the others as  though he belonged. The Thiefmaker was not unaware of this, but he’d lived the sort of life in which even  a single free plague orphan was  a windfall not to be overlooked.

It was the summer of the Seventy-Seventh  year of Gandolo, Father of  Opportunities,  Lord  of  Coin  and Commerce. The Thiefmaker padded through the shrouded night, shepherding his ragged line of children.

In just two years he would be all but begging Father Chains the Eyeless  Priest to  take the Lamora  boy off  his hands, and sharpening his knives in case the priest refused.

3

The Eyeless Priest scratched his grey-stubbled throat. ‘No shit?’

‘None whatsoever.’ The Thiefmaker reached down the front of a  doublet that was several years past merely shabby and pulled out a leather pouch on a fine leather cord; the pouch was dyed the rust-red of dried blood. ‘Already went to the big man and got permission. I’ll do the boy ear-to-ear and send him  for  teeth lessons.’

‘Gods. It’s  a  sob story after all.’ For  an Eyeless  Priest, the fingers he jabbed into the Thiefmaker’s sternum struck swift and sure. ‘Find some other lackwit to shackle with the chains of your conscience.’

‘Conscience  can go piss up a  chimney, Chains. I’m  talking avarice, yours and mine. I can’t keep the boy and I’m offering you a unique  opportunity, a genuine  bargain.’

‘If the boy’s too unruly to keep, why can’t you just pound some wisdom into him and let him ripen to a proper age of sale?’

‘Out of the question, Chains. Limited options. I can’t just slap him around because I can’t let any of the other little  shits know what he’s, ahhh, done. If any of them had the slightest inclination to pull what he’s pulled . . . gods! I’d never be able to control them again. I can either kill him quick, or sell him quicker. No profit versus a paltry sum. So guess which one I prefer?’

‘The boy’s done something you can’t even mention in front of the others?’ Chains massaged his forehead above the blindfold and sighed. ‘Shit. This  sounds like something I might  actually be interested in hearing.’

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora is available now where all good books are sold.