Appreciation: Locke’s death-offering
**Appreciations Disclaimer: an Appreciation is not a review, nor a summary, nor a fan letter, nor a critical essay (although it may contain traces of each). There are major spoilers ahead.**
Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora often gets described as a heist novel. It is that. But it’s something more: it’s a story of loss. For all the awesome-ness (and there is plenty), the key through thread (one that bleeds and blurs into Red Seas Under Red Skies and when held more consciously in mind deepens the reading experience of that story) is Locke’s rage against the powerful, channeled by his mentor Chains, who has equipped him with the skills and crew to do something about it.
The something about it mutates along the way when the mysterious Gray King arrives on the scene and takes over the Camorran underworld.
“But you could have settled for simple theft,” said Locke. “I would have given it all to keep Calo and Galdo and Bug alive. I would have given it all, had you put it to me like that!” (482)
Locke’s fierce loyalty to his friends is sometimes a liability — but it’s also a part of why we love him even though he is a rogue and a cad and sometimes an idiot. That loyalty isn’t enough, though. It’s loyalty to his crew AND to what his crew is devoted to, what their mentor Chains had trained them to and the values he instilled in them (see page 89 for one example).
Convincing the Spider (Camorr’s spy master) to sink the Gray King’s escape ship filled with money that had been stolen from the nobility (much of it by Locke and his crew) was not just a means of seeking revenge on him. As Dona Vorchenza (the Spider) explains:
“Whichever, darling,” said Lorenzo. “Forty-five thousand crowns, plus whatever Barsavi’s fortune came to. That’s a great deal of money to put out of everyone’s grasp, forever.”
“Yes,” said Doña Vorchenza. “And he told us why he was doing it while he stood there. Damn me for a fool.”
“I fear,” said Doña Sofia, “I speak for the rest of us when I say we don’t follow.”
“The Thorn [Locke] said he was a priest of the Thirteenth,” she said. “The heresy of the Nameless Thirteenth, the Crooked Warden, the god of thieves and malefactors. ‘For propriety’s sake,’ he said. ‘For propriety’s sake.’ He said that on purpoes.”
She laughed again, biting down on her knuckles to contain herself.
“Oh, gods. Anatolius killed three of his friends. So don’t you see? There was no danger on that ship; he didn’t want it sunk to save Camorr. It was a death-offering, Stephen, a death-offering.” (495)
And it’s a suitable death offering, made up of the coin of both the peers and the underworld. Thousands of crowns sunk to the bottom of the bay. Not just stolen and recirculated. Gone. Out of reach.
See, the Gentlemen Bastards aren’t just thieves and con artists. They’re agents of the Crooked Warden. And when they die — when Caldo and Galdo and Bug (dammit, why did it also have to be Bug?) are brazenly murdered — there must be a price paid. That that offering is what it is in the context of The Lies of Locke Lamora never fails to fill me with a certain righteous satisfaction. But, of course, also a hollow one. And a haunted one. Locke feels the same. He falls to pieces (in the next book) because of that feeling. Even so — it’s a worthy offering. And it’s what elevates the novel beyond just another cool heist story.