The Lies of Locke Lamora read-along: week 5

Final set of Locke Lamora questions, these ones supplied by Lynn’s book blog.

I’m writing this in my hotel room at Eastercon. The read-along exercise has been great and I want to thank everyone who organised it. Sorry I haven’t commented on other people’s answers–I’ve been quite busy and have had trouble reading the book on schedule. I am a bad person. 😦

Anyway, my answers:

1.       The Thorn of Camorr is renowned – he can beat anyone in a fight and he steals from the rich to give to the poor.  Except of course that clearly most of the myths surrounding him are based on fantasy and not fact.  Now that the book is finished how do you feel the man himself compares to his legend.  Did you feel that he changed as the story progressed and, if so, how did this make you feel about him by the time the conclusion was reached?

Well, the Thorn was never a legend that Locke tried to live up to; he was a persona that Locke found it useful to promote. It’s a nice bit of symmetry that the other major players have similar personae in the Grey King, and the Spider. It’s a duel of masks where everyone’s trying to out-deceive one another.

Does Locke change as the story progresses? Yes, and mostly through the tragedies he suffers. When Calo, Galdo and Bug are killed, Locke becomes focused on revenge with a single-mindedness that he never brought to bear on his pursuit of wealth. The book ends just after he achieves that revenge, but I can’t imagine he’ll go back to his previous good-humoured personality entirely.

I think the events also forced him to become more moral. In the early Locke-as-child scenes we know he caused someone’s death, as a side-effect of a poorly-thought-out scheme. Throughout the adult-Locke parts of the book, but especially in the final act, he is very careful to avoid endangering innocents even when he steals their money. He goes back to rescue the waiter whose costume he stole, risking the success of his plan; and then he risks his life to go back and save the nobles from the Wraithstone bombs. At the end that’s the contrast between him and the Grey King.

2.       Scott Lynch certainly likes to give his leading ladies some entertaining and strong roles to play.  We have the Berangia sisters – and I definitely wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them or their blades plus Dona Vorchenza who is the Spider and played a very cool character – even play acting to catch the Thorn.  How did you feel about the treatment the sisters and Dona received at the hands of Jean and Locke – were you surprised, did it seem out of character at all or justified?

In the early part of the book I was actually bothered by the apparent lack of female characters. The five Gentlemen Bastards were all, well, gentlemen; the only Lady Bastard (if that’s the correct term) was a prominent absence whose only trait appeared to be being Locke’s idealised love interest. The Berangia sisters initially look like a background detail (a well-placed one, because they stuck in my memory without looking like they would obviously be important later); Nazca was, again, defined primarily be being a potential partner for Locke; and Dona Salvara was just there to be married to Don Salvara. It was only when we got to the last 1/3 or so of the book that we met Dona Vorchenza, and the Berangia Sisters and Dona Salvara came into their own as characters. So I’m happier with the book by the end than I thought I would be, but it would still have been nice to have a major female character from the start.

As for the treatment the Berangia sisters got from Jean, I thought that was a great fight scene that didn’t make a fuss of the genders of the participants, which was just right. It was clearly a life-or-death, him-or-them fight scene, and it’s not out of character for Jean to want to win that fight rather than die!

3.       Towards the end we saw a little more of the magic and the history of the Bondsmagi.  The magic, particularly with the use of true names, reminds me a little of old fashioned witchcraft or even voodoo.  But, more than that I was fascinated after reading the interlude headed ‘The Throne in Ashes’ about the Elderglass and the Elders and why their structures were able to survive even against the full might of the Bondsmagi – do you have any theories about this do you think it’s based on one of our ancient civilisations or maybe similar to a myth??

I don’t think the book has given enough information to form a sensible theory. We know magic (or at least alchemy, which I’m treating as a branch of magic) is used kind of like technology in this world, and the Elderglass is ‘sufficiently advanced technology’ in the sense of Clarke’s law. I think it’s nice that even though the present-day human setting of the story is clearly based on real-world Venice, the Elder civilisation isn’t ripped off from a real-world culture or myth. Why should they resemble anything from the real world? They’re aliens. And their ruins don’t have elaborate curses or traps or messages left to future generations: their builders didn’t care enough about humans to leave messages. They’re just big and dumb and fireproof.

4.       We have previously discussed Scott Lynch’s use of description and whether it’s too much or just spot on.  Having got into the last quarter of the book where the level of tension was seriously cranked up – did you still find, the breaks for interludes and the descriptions useful or, under the circumstances did it feel more like a distraction?

The description was just right. Some of the later interludes (after the main child-Locke story had been concluded) felt a bit unnecessary, as if they were just there for the sake of having an interlude at the end of each chapter whether there needed to be one or not.

5.       Now that the book has finished how did you feel about the conclusion and the eventual reveal about the Grey King and more to the point the motivations he declared for such revenge – does it seem credible, were you expecting much worse or something completely different altogether?

It’s credible. That kind of obsessive, long-planned campaign of revenge is an extreme thing to do, but not unbelievably so.

6.       Were you surprised that Locke, being given two possible choices (one of which could possibly mean he would miss his chance for revenge on the Grey King) chose to go back to the Tower  – especially given that (1) he would have difficulty in getting into the building (2) he would have difficulty in convincing them about the situation and (3) he would have difficulty in remaining free afterwards? Did anyone else nearly pee their pants when Locke and the rest were carrying the sculptures up to the roof garden?

No, because what kind of an ending would it have been if he hadn’t? He kills the Grey King and then in the background there’s a white explosion from the top of the tower as all the dukes get Gentled. When the sculptures are first mentioned during Locke’s first visit to the tower, the description practically shouts “these will be important later!” so from that point I was expecting them to be bombs or something similar, and for Locke to have to get rid of them.

I actually found the scene where the sculptures were disposed of to be lacking in the tension I’d expected. Locke spends some time convincing them, and then they see the problem, what will they do? and then someone points out the solution right away. Oh–Wraithstone can be negated by putting it in water, and we happen to have some water within reach. I don’t remember that cistern in the roof garden being set up previously, so it felt like a solution that came out of nowhere. Perhaps it could have been more exciting if I’d had a sense of coming closer to disaster–numbers ticking down on the bomb, or some fantasy equivalent.

7.       Finally, the other question I would chuck in here is that, following the end of the book I was intrigued to check out some of the reviews of LOLL and noticed that the negative reviews mentioned the use of profanity.  How did you feel about this – was it excessive? Just enough? Not enough?

Excessive? Fuck off. It’s used heavily right from the start, so someone knows what they’re getting in to from a casual look at the book. It’s used very well, and used only where you’d expect it to be used.

8.       Okay one further, and probably most important but very quick question – having finished, will you pick up the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies?

I don’t know. Lies was good but I have a whole lot of other books on my to-read pile and I want to read widely, so I’ll probably give it a miss for now.

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2 Responses to The Lies of Locke Lamora read-along: week 5

  1. Pingback: I just have to keep you here . . until Jean. . . shows up! « the Little Red Reviewer

  2. Redhead says:

    dude, you are at #Eastercon, AND did a panel! you get all the cool points this week! 😀

    i LOVE your answer to the first question. Yes, Locke is a thief, but he doesn’t want to see anyone hurt or killed if it can be avoided.

    “At the end that’s the contrast between him and the Grey King.”
    YES!!!

    The book doesn’t start out with too many lady characters, does it? In my mind, Loll is always a “boy book” – male main characters, not a lot of ladies at all, but then, by the end, nearly everyone we are interested in paying attention to is a woman. So it is just masquerading as a “boy book”?

    As you can tell from most of my posts, the swearing doesn’t bother me one bit. This is dark fantasy people! it’s going to have violence, and all things unfair, and eeek, bad language. get over it.

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