The Literary Horizon: The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Sword-Edged Blonde

I’m currently up to my knees in Eric Van Lustbader’s thrillers, and, of course, I’m missing my usual fantasy fare. I’ve dug deep into my reading list to highlight two fantasy novels I’ve wanted to read for quite a while–straight fantasy with a bit of something else sprinkled on top.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling.…

An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains–a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans–a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful–and more ambitious–than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men–and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game–or die trying.…

via Amazon

A dash of Ocean’s Eleven, a whiff of a fantastical Italy, and an alliterative name? I will fully admit that I just love the title. It just works. In any case, I put this on the list after I came across an ad for it in a magazine.

Niki at Fyrefly’s Book Blog adored it, especially its Ocean’s Eleven vibe, and she awarded it five stars. When pressed to find a flaw, she mentioned the lack of resolution about Lamora’s lost love, but said that it was hardly detrimental to the novel as a whole. Adam at The Wertzone had a similarly glowing review, noting the humor evolved well as the tone got darker, as well as Lynch’s efficiency with the executioner’s axe. After both of these wonderful reviews, I’m just about to go and check if my local library system has it–it definitely sounds like the right thing after these thrillers!

The Lies of Locke Lamora was released on July 27, 2006.

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

It should have been a case like any other: a missing princess, a king willing to pay in gold for her return. But before he realizes it, sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse is swept up in a web of mystery and deceit involving a brutally murdered royal heir, a queen accused of an unspeakable crime, and the tragic past he thought he’d left behind.

In order to uncover the answers he seeks, Eddie must delve into the dark underbelly of society while digging deep into his own private history, drawing past and present together. Vast conspiracies, women both beautiful and deadly, and a centuries-old revenge scheme are only a few of the pieces in a lethal puzzle.

The Sword-Edged Blonde is a tour-de-force foray into a realm of action, intrigue, and murder.

via Amazon

For some reason, I really want to say that I got this recommendation from Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust or More Book Lust, but this was published after both of those were! So I have no idea where this recommendation comes from, but I do know why I want to read it–it sounds fun. The dramatic flair of noir in the usually earnest trappings of fantasy? That’s definitely worth a shot, yeah?

Robert at Fantasy Book Critic quite enjoyed it, finding the genre mash-up well-done and the main character charming. He also pointed out that while the world-building is fairly traditional for fantasy, it’s also got a contemporary feel to it, especially with the slang. Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink finds fault with that contemporary slang and feel, but otherwise finds the novel charming and witty enough for a rainy day. Sounds good to me!

The Sword-Edged Blonde was released October 1, 2007.

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