Back at the end of 2013 I laid out a selection of books I intended to read in 2014. Having just finished the second of them, I thought it would be a good time for an update.
The Name of the Wind
I had always heard how beautifully written this book was, and it didn’t disappoint.
My Goodreads rating: 5 of 5 stars
I heard that it took years for Patrick Rothfuss to get someone to publish The Name of the Wind. Based on its success, that can seem hard to believe, but having read it, I can understand why.
The Name of the Wind isn’t a book that has any fondness for convention. Its prose is flowery to the point of lavender, within a single stumbling step of turning purple. Rothfuss uses adverbs and dialogue tags that any editor I’ve worked with would have chopped out of the first revision. There are chains of “ands” as well as run-on sentences and fragments. The POV shifts between third and first person as the narrative shifts to the story within a story, and even that story has other tales nested within it. He drops spoilers liberally throughout.
But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t all work together. The style is engaging and vivid. It pulls you along as Kote sits you down beside Chronicler and Bast to tell you the tale of Kvothe. The main story is the baring of a broken man’s soul, the tale of a boy with a prodigious talent and how it was horribly misspent.
A word of warning: there is no climactic scene, no peak that stands above the others and herald’s the tale’s end. By Kote’s own admission, the whole of the tale will take 3 days (and by extension, 3 books), to tell in its entirety. The story ends not after a climax, nor on a cliffhanger, but rather, at a convenient lull, with 2/3 of a tale yet untold.
The Lies of Locke Lamora
The title rolls off the tongue, and that holds throughout the entirety of the book. As much as I enjoyed The Name of the Wind, I’d have to say that this was even better. The prose might not be quite the poem that Rothfuss weaves, but the characters felt deeper and the setting was incredibly well conveyed.
My Goodreads rating: 5 of 5 stars
Crooked Warden, if you grant me one favor, let me convey just how wonderful I found this book. Barring that, should you be so good as to let them have a hearty laugh at my ineptitude, I suppose I could take some solace.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tale a con artists and heists, set in a city that’s as much a character as any of the human actors. Locke Lamora is a thief’s thief, a con artiste (which is more artistic than a mere artist). He’s the boss of a gang of thieves called the Gentlemen Bastards, and a priest of the Crooked Warden (patron of selective moral discretion and fluid ownership). While to outward appearances the Gentlemen Bastards are a small gang of cheap cons, pickpockets, and second-story men, they are in fact the richest gang in town and clergy of the Crooked Warden, robbing from the nobility in such outlandish fashions that no one will dare admit being taken in.
Of the two main draws of the story, first let me tell you about Camorr, the city where this story takes place. Start with late medieval Venice, canals and everything. Then set it atop the ruins of an ancient city built by a mysterious race whose only legacy are the wondrous glass buildings left behind in ruins, resistant to all human artifice. Set half the rest of the city to rot, infested with gangs of thieves operating openly, each controlling a certain territory, all owing fealty to a single capa (boss). Sprinkle in a noble class kept safe from those thieves by a longstanding agreement called the Secret Peace, which gives the thieves license to do as they please so long as they leave the nobles and city guards alone. The result is an aura of rot and corruption that hangs over every part of the city.
The other factor that makes this story special is the dialogue. While at times it feels perhaps a bit modern, that may owe itself to a fact that certain turns of vulgarity have stood time’s passing like monuments. The Bastards (most especially Locke himself) are educated, pithy, glib, and rarely at a loss for words, many of the sharp at the edges. While violence in the line of thievery may be unavoidable at times, Locke does most of his damage through disguises, accents, and a cunning understanding of the workings of men’s minds (women’s … perhaps not quite so much). While the pen is mightier than the sword, the tongue can thrash them both handily. When left among themselves, the Gentlemen Bastards turn wit and word against one another with a friendly glee and a camaraderie that belies the coin-bought loyalty and quick betrayals so common in Camorr.
Pick up The Lies of Locke Lamora if you want characters who jump out of the page to speak to you, plots within scams within charades, all wrapped in a layer of mischief, a sarcastic hero whose heart is in the right place (if not always his hands), and a setting that feels like you’ve lived there your whole life (but wish you hadn’t). I can’t recommend this one enough.
Now Reading: The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
I’ve really just started it, so my opinions are barely formed. My first impression is that the writing style is stark, with a lot of clipped sentences and a familiar tone, compared to the more flowery prose of both Rothfuss and Lynch. From what I’ve seen so far, the bastards in this one are no gentlemen.