Passionate and wonderful is the conversation that takes place between two people who love something equally, dearly. Such a conversation took place between my co-worker, Kati, and I just over a month ago. Kati and I share a deeply rooted love of the written word, and more importantly, the way that it might be used as a canvas on which to paint images we never imagined we could see. It was while we discussed a tale of our mutual favor that she asked if I had heard of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Usually I am able to gauge her level of adoration for a story by how quickly she had read it. In this case, she had read book one and its subsequent novels in less than a week. I was in.
Kati, neatly situated behind another item we share a love for.
Magic exists in the exclusion of familiarity. This is the measure by which I find it easy to understand why a group of people might find something spectacular, while another group finds the same thing to be mundane. While I very much enjoy reading classic fantasy for familiar wizards, elves, dwarves, and the enchanting magic they wield there is much to be said for the subtle, but equally powerful, magic of illusion. Illusion cannot make thunder clap in the skies at the snap of a finger, but it can very easily mask the fact that one might labor over weather reports to notice when a storm approaches, use scientific data to determine a likely moment for thunder-clap, and confidently, though secretly unsure, present an air of being able to “magically” control the weather. Equal parts preparation, study, confidence and theatrics might prove to be the most potent magic in the known universe.
It is by my own, above stated, understanding of magic that I was “cast under the spell” of the Gentlemen Bastard series (Gentlemen Bastards being the name given to the series as a whole). Within the crisp white pages of a trail I so often tread, there existed a world and characters wholly unfamiliar to me. Therefore, I was enthralled. Here is a world where magic and those who use it are not exalted, but vilified and despised. This is a world where cunning can be your enemy or ally, often in the same beat. Inhabiting this vivid realm are heroes that would not wish to be classified as heroes, anti-heroes, or defined at all for that matter. They trade in deception, layers of deception to be precise. Theirs is a cyclical mission of find or be found by someone to rob of either dignity or money, and rob them of it whatever the cost. Lynch has created a lush universe that positively hums with magic, while simultaneously making little to no use of the stereotypical magic many associate with fantasy. More than once, his writing tricked my notions of how the story would unfold. Touché, Sir.
While I read I could not help but think that Kati was off somewhere smirking privately to herself in the sure knowledge that her plan to get me hooked on the series was guaranteed success. Like the characters in the novel she had led me to precisely where she wanted me to be, and would most assuredly enjoy the spoils of my entering work, seeing her, and making the incongruous grimace so often worn by those who feign something to be so amazing that it actually hurts while saying, “It was so damn good!” A month later I have read the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, and I now hold the third novel, The Republic of Thieves. It is difficult to tell if is I, or Kati, that is more excited for me to read it.