Scott Lynch, previously dishwasher, busboy, waiter, web designer, office manager, prep cook, freelance writer, and volunteer firefighter, is the author of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence series of books and a volunteer firefighter. The author, hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, currently resides in Massachusetts with his wife and fellow author, Elizabeth Bear. Lynch, dubbing himself a standard-issue geek-of-all-trades, has interests in history, literature, films, gaming, and game design.
The Gentleman Bastard Sequence, beginning with the publication of The Lies of Locke Lamora in June of 2006, tells the story of the Thorn of Camorr, Locke Lamora, a cunning thief with a knack for stealing from just about everyone, planning intricate heists, swearing, and getting himself and his gang the Gentleman Bastards into such deep water only the most elaborate of plans can get him out. Lies…was followed by Red Seas Under Red Skies in 2007, and The Republic of Thieves in 2013 with four more books planned in the series.
From the beginning of The Lies of Locke Lamora, you get a sense of who Locke is and what the world he inhabits is like. Locke Lamora, even as a child, is too clever for his own good in a cruel world that expects him to remain scraping at the bottom. What sets the world apart from the typical fantasy setting is its influence. When people think fantasy they often think of the early Middle Ages influenced by Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia often dealing with royalty, their knights, and the wars they wage. Camorr, the setting of the first novel, feels as if Locke is walking in the Renaissance with influences of Italian and French cities. Sure the setting has swords, magic, alchemy, taverns, and everything that pops into your head when you think of fantasy.
However, its shining towers left behind by long dead aliens, the emphasis on alchemy over any other magic, criminal organizations making deals with local governments, and women gladiators fighting sharks at festivals gives it a different taste on the reader’s palette. It isn’t simply that it’s different from the norm that makes the world building in the series great but Scott Lynch’s gift for details. Even the very first lines of Lies showcases this with Seventy-seventh Year of Sendovani which is “part of the ornate and infuriatingly baroque way the Therin people name and track their years” according to Lynch. Rogues in other books steal but the over the top plans of Locke Lamora require a level of details about the culture in order for his plans to make sense e.g the people, the places, the law, the fashion, the food, the dialect, and so on.
A fantasy novel worth reading can’t be built on world building alone, as ironic as that sounds. No, without characters that live and breath in that world, if in dramatic fashion, all that world building is useless. Likewise, without an engaging plot, characters tend to flounder about not having any goals to accomplish. Luckily for the reader, Lynch brings this to the Gentlemen Bastards series like bags full of loot. An intimate scene towards the beginning involving a barge on a river bank with Jean Tannen eating an apple, core and all, while Locke remarks in disgust give us an early insight into their relationships outside of their thefts. Locke is sickened by unnecessary violence, Jean is a bookworm with highly skilled in math, and the Sanza twins are the only members who smoke with a gift for winning card games. What they do though does not tell us everything. In fact, Lynch’s dialogue is where his characters shine. If the witty banter between them was the best dialogue in the book that’d be enough to give them a recommendation but when the characters reach their lowest Lynch provides hard-hitting dialogue of raw emotion that stays within the boundary of how their characters would react. Your lovable, sarcastic, witty, and clever rogues flip the script and are dealing with traumatic experiences that come out in their distinct voices. This isn’t even accounting for how the dialogue shows the class, cultural, and geographical differences between characters but that falls more under world-building.
The books aren’t without their criticisms. What is one person’s world building is another person’s infodump. One reader may love the planning of heists while another may see it as too much exposition. While Lynch writes plenty of diverse and well-rounded women in his books they’re all secondary characters until the third book. Until The Republic of Thieves Sabetha is often mentioned but never seen. When she does premiere in the book Lynch has a difficult task ahead of him in balancing her motivations outside of Locke and Jean and keeping her a part of their story. Lynch takes the trope of meant-to-be relationships and turns it on its head with Sabetha and Locke but it could be said why have it all if it’s going to push your strongest female character temporarily out of the books? While the way he handles backstories is a great way to give it to the reader without taking too long to get to to the main plot it can sometimes be jarring on the anticipation for what happen next. One moment you’re reading about Locke’s childhood the next its present day in the middle of the heist. It sucks you in then interrupts your reading flow in a way that a different point-of-view chapter in a book by George R.R. Martin or Joe Abercrombie may not.
People tend to fall in different categories when they talk about separating the artist from the art but there is no rule stating you can’t take it case by case. Scott Lynch has been very open about his battle with depression and his divorce which nearly ruined his career and caused the long delay of The Republic of Thieves. It is not essential to empathize with an author you’re reading nor does it necessarily translate into liking their books. However, if you suffer from anxiety and learn anxiety attacks are part of the reason the fourth book, The Thorn of Emberlain is delayed it can help you as a fan to see the author you like as more than the producer of that thing you like. Though originally meant to be published last fall the fourth book has been delayed due to the author severely underestimating his move from Wisconsin to Massachusetts. His wife, author Elizabeth Bear, and his agent has also recommended some edits to the book. As it stands now, The Thorn of Emberlain currently needs an ending written, though it is extensively outlined.
Both a film, optioned in 2006, and a TV series, optioned in 2012, have lapsed in rights. With Game of Thrones coming to an end next year the possibility of another licensing deal is sure to come about. Scott Lynch has an active presence online with his blog, Lynch Industries, and his website for personal updates, news on the next book, and his next appearances. Lynch frequently posts fanart and answer questions over on his tumblr and you can follow him on Twitter.