Strength in Weakness – The Lies of Locke Lamora

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One of the best feelings in the world is when a much-hyped book lives up to its reputation. That’s what I’m experiencing right now as, about a decade behind the rest of the reading world, I read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. And as of today, one fascinating theme in particular is leaping out at me from this wonderful fantasy novel – the idea of strength in weakness.

I’m nearly halfway through the book, and I just reached a scene where a the childhood Locke Lamora steals glasses for his new long-sighted friend Jean. Locke’s an incredibly smart kid, but in this he shows a weakness, a lack of knowledge about the world. He steals a whole bag full of spectacles, but none of them are the right sort for Jean. Locke didn’t even know that different people need different glasses.

I found this scene particularly touching because it shows the characters connecting through their weaknesses, whether poor eyesight or limited knowledge. That brings them closer together, and in that sense brings them strength. But it demonstrates their strength in another way as well. Understanding their limitations adds to their ability to grow, and to make the most of who they are.

This is a recurring motif in the book – weaknesses as strengths and strengths as weaknesses. Power and wealth make their holders vulnerable to the tricks of con artists. A pretence of blindness helps a criminal hide. Locke’s incredible smarts almost get him killed as a child, when he doesn’t understand the consequences of his clever schemes. Making a scam look flawed makes it all the more effective.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a beautifully written and fascinating book, and based on the first half I heartily recommend it. As I’m writing this post in advance, hopefully I’ll have finished the book by the time you read this. So if you’ve read Locke Lamora, what did you think of it? And if you haven’t, you really should.

5 thoughts on “Strength in Weakness – The Lies of Locke Lamora”

  1. One of the things I thought Lynch did best was build a belief in his world by not explaining it. You get hints of history, but very little backstory to the setting, and that ‘resisting the urge to explain’ really paid off. Lots of interest in the world, making the reader’s imagination work, without slowing down the pace of what’s happening ‘now’.

    1. Totally agree. A lot of writers with rich worlds spoil the flow of their books in their enthusiasm to explain those worlds. Even when they find moments to fit it in naturally, it slows things down. Lynch lets a lot of it emerge, creating an incredible richness. But he also manages to stop and lay out more world at just the right moments, so that the slower pace adds to the story instead of detracting from it.

      I don’t know how he makes this stuff work, but he does it beautifully.

  2. The theme of family-but-not-related isn’t new to Locke Lamora but the camaraderie and chemistry between the Gentlemon Bastards is very easy, self assured and infectious. Which in turn made some subsequent events really have an impact.

    What I disliked were some of the elements that smacked of high fantasy/macguffin. It’s some consolation that these are not in the hands of our protagonists, which is a trope reserved for other authors

    1. I totally agree about the family thing. I’ve now finished – read the last third of the book in a one day binge after hitting the big twists – and that section is so much more powerful because of those relationships, because you know what’s at stake. And now I’m really looking forward to meeting the character who keeps getting mentioned but hasn’t yet appeared in person.

      I liked the high fantasy stuff, I think because it felt fresh and original. As you say, not putting it in the hands of the protagonists helps with this. Seeing how they succeeded using cunning when others had far more powerful resources added to their appeal.

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