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.