On a distant world, orphan Locke Lamora is sold into a crew of thieves and con artists. Soon his natural gifts make him an underworld celebrity, leader of the flamboyantly larcenous Gentleman Bandits. But there is someone who covets Locke’s talents, his success, his very life, forcing him to put everything on the line to protect himself. With a world so vividly realized that it’s positively tactile, and characters so richly drawn that they threaten to walk right off the page, this is one of those novels that reaches out and grabs readers, pulling us into the middle of the action. With this debut novel, Lynch immediately establishes himself as a gifted and fearless storyteller, unafraid of comparisons to Silverberg and Jordan, not to mention David Liss and even Dickens (the parallels to Oliver Twist offer an appealing extra dimension to the story, although the novel is no mere reimagining of that Victorian classic). Fans of lavishly appointed fantasy will be in seventh heaven here, but it will be nearly as popular with readers of literary crime fiction. This is a true genre bender, at home on almost any kind of fiction shelf. Expect it to be among the year’s most impressive debuts.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, May 2006.