Here are my answers to this week’s discussion questions on The Lies of Locke Lamora. Questions this week provided by @ohthatashley at SF Signal.
1. In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so much fantastical as realistic – how about you?
I don’t think something has to be either fantastic or realistic. It’s not fantastic in the sense that it doesn’t rely on anything supernatural; it is fantastic in that it’s part of an invented culture rather than part of a real one; but it’s also realistic, in the sense that it’s a very believable part of the invented culture. With things like this, realism and good fantasy go hand in hand.
2. When Jean meets with what will become the Wicked Sisters for the first time, the meeting is described very much like how people feel when they find their true work or home. Agree? Disagree? Some of both?
Agree. And it’s cute, but it’s also kind of disappointing how predictably some of the flashbacks set up the present-day situation.
3. Salt devils. Bug. Jean. The description is intense. Do you find that description a help in visualizing the scene? Do you find yourself wishing the description was occasionally – well – a little less descriptive?
Not at all. I thought there was just the right level of description in this scene. I had a clear sense of place but I never felt the action was slowing down in order for elaborate descriptions to be fitted in.
4. This section has so much action in it, it’s hard to find a place to pause. But…but.. oh, Locke. Oh, Jean. On their return to the House of Perelandro, their world is turned upside down. Did you see it coming?
No. I wish I had! In last week’s answers I naively said that Locke’s ordeal of being left to drown in a barrel of horse urine could be the book’s lowest point. It looks like I spoke too soon! In hindsight, the urine barrel ordeal wouldn’t be an effective lowest point because it doesn’t change enough: it’s the sort of thing which Locke could survive and not be changed by. The deaths of Locke’s friends and the destruction of the group’s hideout have to change Locke, and he changes visibly. And hot on its heels is the change in the city’s overall status quo, which is an additional shock.
I also love the way that the Don Salvara game is finally tied into the Grey King plot, in a way that makes it much more urgent. Locke’s got to complete the Don Salvara game, as before, but this time with fewer resources and more urgency, as it’s his only source of money.
5. Tavrin Callas’s service to the House of Aza Guilla is recalled at an opportune moment, and may have something to do with saving a life or three. Do you believe Chains knew what he set in motion? Why or why not?
I don’t think Chains foresaw things in that much detail. I think he was doing what he said he was doing: giving the Bastards skills that might come in useful in many different future scenarios.
6. As Locke and Jean prepare for Capa Raza, Dona Vorchenza’s remark that the Thorn of Camorr has never been violent – only greedy and resorting to trickery – comes to mind again. Will this pattern continue?
I think so, and I think it’ll be to Locke’s eventual advantage. Notice how he takes time to help the waiter he took advantage of escape, rather than leave him to Merragio’s justice. I suspect his record of non-violence will win him someone’s trust or friendship at some point in the future.
7. Does Locke Lamora or the Thorn of Camorr enter Meraggio’s Countinghouse that day? Is there a difference?
It was Locke, not the Thorn. The Thorn of Camorr is a dashing swordsman who can walk through walls, who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, isn’t he? He’s a persona that Locke can use to his advantage, but he doesn’t use this persona at any point during the (ridiculously entertaining) Meraggio’s sequence. Unless you’re going to argue that the recent events have meant the death of Locke Lamora and the character is now the Thorn–but that’s not how the book presents it. It looks like Locke still thinks of himself as Locke.