Let me start by saying that I met Mr. Lynch at the Phoenix Comicon and he was all smiles and incredibly nice. This was a story I was very interested in reading. I will also say upfront that I plan on reading the second book in this series. And I plan on doing it in the near future. So why only 3 stars? Two words: Descriptions. Characters.
Now, if you’ve read my reviews you’ll know I’m not into lengthy descriptions. Worked into dialog or a natural scene? Oh hell ya, I love it. A paragraph? Sure. That’s how most do it. Two paragraphs? Okay, I’ll deal. 3 pages? Forget about it. I’m skimming right over that. 3 pages where the tense is switched to present while the rest of the book is in past? Yeah, I’m not skimming, I’m plain skipping. Why? I hate hate hate it when I get pulled out of a story. It’s very easy for me to completely lose myself in a book. I can read for hours without realizing it; missing meals, forgetting about appointments, ignoring appointments, waking up at 4am because I can’t stop thinking about the book, and so on. But when I’m continually pulled from the story, I get very upset. It’s jarring for me. So that alone dropped this book an entire star rating. I probably missed tons of interesting little tidbits from those sections, but I can’t stand info dumps and pages of descriptions. So, honestly, it ticked me off because I know I missed some cool stuff.
Let’s tack on to that the flashbacks. I didn’t so much mind it when the went to Locke’s childhood and initiation into the Gentleman Bastards. Those gave me insights into his character and I did enjoy them, though I felt he was extremely indifferent for such a young child. What I did not like was when a scene ended with a reveal and then we backtracked to how it came to be. I already know so going back doesn’t do much for me. I’ve lost the tension, the interest, and the care: I know the end result.
On top of the pages of description, there were paragraphs on top of paragraphs of in-depth dialog for the scheme the Gentleman Bastards were attempting. Now, this is going to come down to purely personal preference. I didn’t care much for all the laboring setup of the Don Salvara. It’s just not something that holds my interests. This is something my sister would enjoy. She tends to like all that stuff, which is why we don’t have the same books in our top five. Add this to the all the description and I’m skimming quite a bit.
Characters? Ugh! This was the most frustrating part of the book and the one area I walked around spewing my frustration this morning when I finished it. So, let me tell you that I enjoyed the characters. But… they were nothing too terribly special to me. The banter got me to smile a few times, and I like the sense of camaraderie the Gentleman Bastards had. With all my readings and reviews, I’m slowly identifying what draws me to a character. I’ve often said that I like my characters a little broody and internally tormented. That’s definitely true. But what I found enticed me to Locke Lamora (I’m just going to say it here: I friggin love this character’s name) was his vulnerability. And that’s when I realized that I look for that trait in my favorite characters. The vulnerability doesn’t always stem from something traumatic, but it definitely helps me latch on to characters. Now, Locke Lamora is not your average protagonist weighing in at two hundred pounds of nothing but muscle. He gets the crap beat out of him and knows that he’s no physical match for half the people he runs into. I really really liked that about him. So, why did I not latch on to him? I asked myself that same question this morning and discovered why. He lacked a bit of depth to me. He didn’t have quirks. I don’t remember reading how he stood, how his stances were set when he was in trouble, when he was happy. I hardly got an expression from him. He was stone, in my mind. He had no life. However, there was that vulnerability in him that kept me interested in his character. And there were some hints that there’s more of his past that we’re going to learn about in upcoming books. That alone will keep me reading on.
The writing was very approachable and I found Mr. Lynch’s voice nothing short of delightful. When I was in a good scene with all my senses firing, I was there and I loved it! Truly gifted with prose. While I did have some beefs with the book, I can’t fault Lynch’s writing. And if you boil down the story, it was very interesting and engaging.
So, overall, if you don’t mind some descriptions, I really do recommend this book. I’ll definitely pick up book two at some point and hope to become a little bit more invested in Locke Lamora. And I’ll be ardently recommending this book to my sister.