The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006, Bantam Books)
While I am a huge fan of fantasy literature, sometimes all the elves, dragons, and wizened old wizards can become a sort of Gandalfian test pattern. So it's always nice to find a well-written non-Tolkien fantasy novel.
Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is among the best of this genre. Though it is built upon such solid foundations as Robert Aspirin and Lynne Abbey's Thieves' World anthologies, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar novels, a bit of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, and some Charles Dickens for good measure, Lynch's work is definitively of his own making.
The sprawling city of Camorr, built upon the elderglass ruins of an ancient and mysterious civilization, owes much to medieval and renaissance Italy – for instance, the fact that the city is criscrossed by many canals and waterways. The thieves and ruffians of Camorr, united under the powerful and clever Capa Barsavi, have come to a lucrative and well-balanced Secret Peace with the constabulary and nobility of the city.
Into this city is born Locke Lamora, a boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Orphaned at an early age, Locke is taken in and raised by the Gentleman Bastards, the smallest gang in Camorr. As he grows, Locke eventually takes leadership of the gang, spinning con after con designed to secretly flaunt the Secret Peace. When a mysterious assassin, known only as the Gray King, begins a systematic execution of the Capa's men, Locke and his Gentleman Bastards find themselves juggling an ever-growing number of schemes, each more desperate than the last, hoping the entire thing doesn't collapse around them.
The best thing about The Lies of Locke Lamora is that it's the first book fo a series. So if you're looking for a great fantasy novel that isn't just more of the same old elves, dragons, and wizards, give it a read.
Rating: 4 Stars