by: Scott Lynch
This is an incredibly finely crafted first novel. It is a rambling tale of the layers of power and authority in a fantasy city-state. It is a tale of a brotherhood of thieves and con-artists. It is a morality piece, if morality is akin to honor among thieves. It is a smart romp through the city and sub-cultures of Camorr.
How do I explain this complicated convoluted story? The characters would welcome Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser into their fold. The interweaving plot makes Leverage look simple. The banter between characters and the general camaraderie is vaguely reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven (either version). That’s a literary, television and movie reference and still doesn’t begin to comprise the flavor of the work.
It is a compelling story. The intrigue between factions and around the con games is finely tuned. The narrative shifts back and forth in time. This can seem a bit confusing, but it always serves the story. The dramatic tension is maintained by giving us just enough background to follow the line of the con. Alternatively we see the con played out and then are given the backstory so we can understand what just happened is not as it appeared.
The story kept me guessing all the way through, and mostly I guessed wrong. The level of plotting, distraction and illusion is delightful. The “magical” elements are well integrated. The language whispers familiarly, but I can’t be placed as being derived consistently from Spanish or Italian or something else all together.
This promises to be a series, but not necessarily a sequential one. Certainly this book stands alone. Perhaps it is only the desire to go on another romp with these characters that has the series notion running through my brain. There is surely more trouble to be had, more scraps to be gotten into and out of, and at least one character who is a member of the gang, but who we have yet to meet. I am genuinely looking forward to more.