The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora

4.5 303
by Scott Lynch

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“Remarkable . . . Scott Lynch’s first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, exports the suspense and wit of a cleverly constructed crime caper into an exotic realm of fantasy, and the result is engagingly entertaining.”—The Times (London)
An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the…  See more details below


“Remarkable . . . Scott Lynch’s first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, exports the suspense and wit of a cleverly constructed crime caper into an exotic realm of fantasy, and the result is engagingly entertaining.”—The Times (London)
An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
Praise for The Lies of Locke Lamora
“Fresh, original, and engrossing . . . gorgeously realized.”—George R. R. Martin
“Right now, in the full flush of a second reading, I think The Lies of Locke Lamora is probably in my top ten favorite books ever. Maybe my top five. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have read it, you should probably read it again.”—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

“A unique fantasy milieu peopled by absorbing, colorful characters . . . Locke’s wit and audacity endear him to victims and bystanders alike.”The Seattle Times
“A true genre bender, at home on almost any kind of fiction shelf . . . 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.”Booklist (starred review)
“High-octane fantasy . . . a great swashbuckling yarn of a novel.”—Richard Morgan

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Scott Lynch's debut novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, isn't so much a straightforward fantasy as a witches' brew of eclectic literary components: a pinch of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, a dash of Robin Hood mythos, a handful of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and a heaping helping of adventure fantasy à la R. A. Salvatore all add to this novel's boisterous, swashbuckling spirit.

Locke Lamora is just a child when a plague leaves him orphaned on the mean streets of Camorr, a city that "has more gangs than it does foul odors." Lamora quickly masters the tools of the thieving trade -- deception and misdirection -- and eventually becomes something of a legend as the leader of the Gentlemen Bastards, a band of misfit orphans known for their intellect and street savvy. But in a city ruled by ruthless crime lords -- Capa Barsavi, whose shirt buttons are made of victims' teeth; the Duke's mysterious henchman, Spider; a ghostlike executioner named the Gray King, et al. -- Lamora soon finds himself a pawn in a much larger and deadlier game…

An action-packed tale of revenge and redemption set in a richly described realm reminiscent of Renaissance-era Venice and peopled by a cast of realistically crafted, Machiavellian characters, The Lies of Locke Lamora is easily one of the most impressive fantasy debuts of 2006. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Gentleman Bastard Series, #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.13(d)
940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Don Salvara Game


LOCKE LAMORA'S RULE of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim's trust forever. This time around, he planned to spend those three seconds getting strangled.

Locke was on his knees, and Calo, standing behind him, had a hemp rope coiled three times around his neck. The rough stuff looked impressive, and it would leave Locke's throat a very credible shade of red. No genuine Camorri assassin old enough to waddle in a straight line would garrote with anything but silk or wire, of course (the better to crease the victim's windpipe). Yet if Don Lorenzo Salvara could tell a fake strangling from the real thing in the blink of an eye at thirty paces, they'd badly misjudged the man they planned to rob and the whole game would be shot anyway.

"Can you see him yet? Or Bug's signal?" Locke hissed his question as lightly as he could, then made a few impressive gurgling sounds.

"No signal. No Don Salvara. Can you breathe?"

"Fine, just fine," Locke whispered, "but shake me some more. That's the convincer."

They were in the dead-end alley beside the old Temple of Fortunate Waters; the temple's prayer waterfalls could be heard gushing somewhere behind the high plaster wall. Locke clutched once again at the harmless coils of rope circling his neck and spared a glance for the horse staring at him from just a few paces away, laden down with a rich-looking cargo of merchant's packs. The poor dumb animal was Gentled; there was neither curiosity nor fear behind the milk-white shells of its unblinking eyes. It wouldn't have cared even had the strangling been real.

Precious seconds passed; the sun was high and bright in a sky scalded free of clouds, and the grime of the alley clung like wet cement to the legs of Locke's breeches. Nearby, Jean Tannen lay in the same moist muck while Galdo pretended (mostly) to kick his ribs in. He'd been merrily kicking away for at least a minute, just as long as his twin brother had supposedly been strangling Locke.

Don Salvara was supposed to pass the mouth of the alley at any second and, ideally, rush in to rescue Locke and Jean from their "assailants." At this rate, he would end up rescuing them from boredom.

"Gods," Calo whispered, bending his mouth to Locke's ear as though he might be hissing some demand, "where the hell is that damn Salvara? And where's Bug? We can't keep this shit up all day; other people do walk by the mouth of this damned alley!"

"Keep strangling me," Locke whispered. "Just think of twenty thousand full crowns and keep strangling me. I can choke all day if I have to."


Everything had gone beautifully that morning in the run-up to the game itself, even allowing for the natural prickliness of a young thief finally allowed a part in his first big score.

"Of course I know where I'm supposed to be when the action starts," Bug whined. "I've spent more time perched up on that temple roof than I did in my mother's gods-damned womb!"

Jean Tannen let his right hand trail in the warm water of the canal while he took another bite of the sour marsh apple held in his left. The forward gunwale of the flat-bottomed barge was a choice spot for relaxation in the watered-wine light of early morning, allowing all sixteen stone of Jean's frame to sprawl comfortably--keg belly, heavy arms, bandy legs, and all. The only other person (and the one doing all of the work) in the empty barge was Bug: a lanky, mop-headed twelve-year-old braced against the steering pole at the stern.

"Your mother was in an understandable hurry to get rid of you, Bug." Jean's voice was soft and even and wildly incongruous. He spoke like a teacher of music or a copier of scrolls. "We're not. So indulge me once more with proof of your penetrating comprehension of our game."

"Dammit," Bug replied, giving the barge another push against the gentle current of the seaward-flowing canal. "You and Locke and Calo and Galdo are down in the alley between Fortunate Waters and the gardens for the Temple of Nara, right? I'm up on the roof of the temple across the way."

"Go on," Jean said around a mouthful of marsh apple. "Where's Don Salvara?"

Other barges, heavily laden with everything from ale casks to bleating cows, were slipping past the two of them on the clay-colored water of the canal. Bug was poling them north along Camorr's main commercial waterway, the Via Camorrazza, toward the Shifting Market, and the city was lurching into life around them.

The leaning gray tenements of water-slick stone were spitting their inhabitants out into the sunlight and the rising summer warmth. The month was Parthis, meaning that the night-sweat of condensation already boiling off the buildings as a soupy mist would be greatly missed by the cloudless white heat of early afternoon.

"He's coming out of the Temple of Fortunate Waters, like he does every Penance Day right around noon. He's got two horses and one man with him, if we're lucky."

"A curious ritual," Jean said. "Why would he do a thing like that?"

"Deathbed promise to his mother." Bug drove his pole down into the canal, struggled against it for a moment, and managed to shove them along once more. "She kept the Vadran religion after she married the old Don Salvara. So he leaves an offering at the Vadran temple once a week and gets home as fast as he can so nobody pays too much attention to him. Dammit, Jean, I already know this shit. Why would I be here if you didn't trust me? And why am I the one who gets to push this stupid barge all the way to the market?"

"Oh, you can stop poling the barge any time you can beat me hand to hand three falls out of five." Jean grinned, showing two rows of crooked brawler's teeth in a face that looked as though someone had set it on an anvil and tried to pound it into a more pleasing shape. "Besides, you're an apprentice in a proud trade, learning under the finest and most demanding masters it has to offer. Getting all the shit-work is excellent for your moral education."

"You haven't given me any bloody moral education."

"Yes. Well, that's probably because Locke and I have been dodging our own for most of our lives now. As for why we're going over the plan again, let me remind you that one good screwup will make the fate of those poor bastards look sunny in comparison to what we'll get."

Jean pointed at one of the city's slop wagons, halted on a canal-side boulevard to receive a long dark stream of night soil from the upper window of a public alehouse. These wagons were crewed by petty criminals whose offenses were too meager to justify continual incarceration in the Palace of Patience. Shackled to their wagons and huddled in the alleged protection of long leather ponchos, they were let out each morning to enjoy what sun they could when they weren't cursing the dubious accuracy with which several thousand Camorri emptied their chamber pots.

"I won't screw it up, Jean." Bug shook his thoughts like an empty coin purse, searching desperately for something to say that would make him sound as calm and assured as he imagined Jean and all the older Gentlemen Bastards always were--but the mouth of most twelve-year-olds far outpaces the mind. "I just won't, I bloody won't, I promise."

"Good lad," Jean said. "Glad to hear it. But just what is it that you won't screw up?"

Bug sighed. "I make the signal when Salvara's on his way out of the Temple of Fortunate Waters. I keep an eye out for anyone else trying to walk past the alley, especially the city watch. If anybody tries it, I jump down from the temple roof with a longsword and cut their bloody heads off where they stand."

"You what?"

"I said I distract them any way I can. You going deaf, Jean?"

A line of tall countinghouses slid past on their left, each displaying lacquered woodwork, silk awnings, marble facades, and other ostentatious touches along the waterfront. There were deep roots of money and power sunk into that row of three- and four-story buildings. Coin-Kisser's Row was the oldest and goldest financial district on the continent. The place was as steeped in influence and elaborate rituals as the glass heights of the Five Towers, in which the duke and the Grand Families sequestered themselves from the city they ruled.

"Move us up against the bank just under the bridges, Bug." Jean gestured vaguely with his apple. "His Nibs will be waiting to come aboard."

Two Elderglass arches bridged the Via Camorrazza right in the middle of Coin-Kisser's Row--a high and narrow catbridge for foot traffic and a lower, wider one for wagons. The seamless brilliance of the alien glass looked like nothing so much as liquid diamond, gently arched by giant hands and left to harden over the canal. On the right bank was the Fauria, a crowded island of multitiered stone apartments and rooftop gardens. Wooden wheels churned white against the stone embankment, drawing canal water up into a network of troughs and viaducts that crisscrossed over the Fauria's streets at every level.

Bug slid the barge over to a rickety quay just beneath the catbridge; from the faint and slender shadow of this arch a man jumped down to the quay, dressed (as Bug and Jean were) in oil-stained leather breeches and a rough cotton shirt. His next nonchalant leap took him into the barge, which barely rocked at his arrival.

"Salutations to you, Master Jean Tannen, and profuse congratulations on the fortuitous timing of your arrival!" said the newcomer.

"Ah, well, felicitations to you in respect of the superlative grace of your entry into our very humble boat, Master Lamora." Jean punctuated this statement by popping the remains of his apple into his mouth, stem and all, and producing a wet crunching noise.

"Creeping shits, man." Locke Lamora stuck out his tongue. "Must you do that? You know the black alchemists make fish poison from the seeds of those damn things."

"Lucky me," said Jean after swallowing the last bit of masticated pulp, "not being a fish."

Locke was a medium man in every respect--medium height, medium build, medium-dark hair cropped short above a face that was neither handsome nor memorable. He looked like a proper Therin, though perhaps a bit less olive and ruddy than Jean or Bug; in another light he might have passed for a very tan Vadran. His bright gray eyes alone had any sense of distinction; he was a man the gods might have shaped deliberately to be overlooked. He settled down against the left-hand gunwale and crossed his legs.

"Hello to you as well, Bug! I knew we could count on you to take pity on your elders and let them rest in the sun while you do the hard work with the pole."

"Jean's a lazy old bastard is what it is," Bug said. "And if I don't pole the barge, he'll knock my teeth out the back of my head."

"Jean is the gentlest soul in Camorr, and you wound him with your accusations," said Locke. "Now he'll be up all night crying."

"I would have been up all night anyway," Jean added, "crying from the ache of rheumatism and lighting candles to ward off evil vapors."

"Which is not to say that our bones don't creak by day, my cruel apprentice." Locke massaged his kneecaps. "We're at least twice your age--which is prodigious for our profession."

"The Daughters of Aza Guilla have tried to perform a corpse-blessing on me six times this week," said Jean. "You're lucky Locke and I are still spry enough to take you with us when we run a game."

To anyone beyond hearing range, Locke and Jean and Bug might have looked like the crew of a for-hire barge, slacking their way toward a cargo pickup at the junction of the Via Camorrazza and the Angevine River. As Bug poled them closer and closer to the Shifting Market, the water was getting thicker with such barges, and with sleek black cockleshell boats, and battered watercraft of every description, not all of them doing a good job of staying afloat or under control.

"Speaking of our game," said Locke, "how is our eager young apprentice's understanding of his place in the scheme of things?"

"I've been reciting it to Jean all morning," said Bug.

"And the conclusion is?"

"I've got it down cold!" Bug heaved at the pole with all of his strength, driving them between a pair of high-walled floating gardens with inches to spare on either side. The scents of jasmine and oranges drifted down over them as their barge slipped beneath the protruding branches of one of the gardens; a wary attendant peeked over one garden-boat's wall, staff in hand to fend them off if necessary. The big barges were probably hauling transplants to some noble's orchard upriver.

"Down cold, and I won't screw it up. I promise! I know my place, and I know the signals. I won't screw it up!"


Calo was shaking Locke with real vigor, and Locke's performance as his victim was a virtuoso one, but still the moments dragged by. They were all trapped in their pantomime like figures out of the richly inventive hells of Therin theology: a pair of thieves destined to spend all eternity stuck in an alley, mugging victims that never passed out or gave up their money.

"Are you as alarmed as I am?" Calo whispered.

"Just stay in character," Locke hissed. "You can pray and strangle at the same time."

There was a high-pitched scream from their right, echoing across the cobbles and walls of the Temple District. It was followed by shouts and the creaking tread of men in battle harness--but these sounds moved away from the mouth of the alley, not toward it.

"That sounded like Bug," said Locke.

"I hope he's just arranging a distraction," said Calo, his grip on the rope momentarily slackening. At that instant, a dark shape darted across the gap of sky between the alley's high walls, its fluttering shadow briefly falling over them as it passed.

"Now what the hell was that, then?" Calo asked.

Off to their right, someone screamed again.


Bug had poled himself, Locke, and Jean from the Via Camorrazza into the Shifting Market right on schedule, just as the vast Elderglass wind chime atop Westwatch was unlashed to catch the breeze blowing in from the sea and ring out the eleventh hour of the morning.

The Shifting Market was a lake of relatively placid water at the very heart of Camorr, perhaps half a mile in circumference, protected from the rushing flow of the Angevine and the surrounding canals by a series of stone breakwaters. The only real current in the market was human-made, as hundreds upon hundreds of floating merchants slowly and warily followed one another counterclockwise in their boats, jostling for prized positions against the flat-topped breakwaters, which were crowded with buyers and sightseers on foot.

From the Hardcover edition.

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"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." —-Booklist Starred Review

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Lies of Locke Lamora 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 303 reviews.
denverbroncosgirl More than 1 year ago
Okay, I didn't think it could happen, but I found a book comparable to the greatness of "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I will have to say, there were parts of the book that moved slowly for me. I felt it was a bit too descriptive in parts. However, it turned out to be one of the best damn stories I've ever read. On the edge of your seat excitement and suspense. Excellent character development and a great plot. Locke Lamora & his comrade Jean Tammen are now some of my favorite characters ever. There were a few things that happened in the story that really pissed me off & I wished wouldn't have happened. But the story & ending were just awesome. Red Seas Under Red Skies, here I come.
Straysod More than 1 year ago
I hate leaving reviews that sound like they were written by the publisher to promote the book, but dang, it is hard not to just enthusiastically spout praise when a book is this freaking good. So I will say that this is an amazing book, spectacularly written, a story deftly weaved, characters to adore, action to make you bite your knuckles, and a plot to keep you guessing continuously, and then I will stop spouting praise. More to the point, these are the kinds of things you can expect from this book. If you don't like them, then you probably won't like the book. -The plot is convoluted, complex and mysterious. You will be kept guessing all the way through. -It can get very dark. This is not a fluffy, happy tale. There is humor (very very well done humor!) but even more striking are the moments that make you weep. -While the POV doesn't shift between characters much, there is some time shift. So if you're not willing to follow more than one story, this is not the book for you. -The action is spectacular, well written and exciting, but not overwhelming. The book is definitely propelled by its plot and characters. Other than that, all I can say it that it is a superb example of the fantasy genre, with a beatiful, realistic, and complex world, endearing, charming characters, and a gorgeously twisted plot.
shimmeringfalls More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It has believable characters in a somewhat grungy and believable setting. Though it starts a bit slow, the pace picks up quickly. The fantasy of the story isn't overwhelming at all. It has just enough of it to be able to call it fantasy without pushing out the gritty plot and remarkable humor the author produced. A fantastic read. Please enjoy it.
ir0nli0nzi0nzbee More than 1 year ago
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch, is the first installment of what will undoubtedly be a phenomenal series. I have read numerous books, and I am getting to the point of wandering aimlessly down the aisles of B&N seeking (sometimes unsuccessfully) the next great series for me to sink my teeth into. I picked this one up on a whim, and I am so glad that I judged a book by it's cover. The world of Locke Lamora, Camorr, is painted in vivid detail. From the crumbling cities reminiscent of Renaissance Italy, to the strange, glass-like structures left from a previous unknown civilization, the detail and depth is astounding. The adventures and exploits of Locke Lamora and his "Gentleman Bastards" make this novel impossible to put down. Scott Lynch's debut, as well as Red Seas Under Red Skies (the sequel) are some of the best books I have read in a long while. I cannot wait for the next installment. Lynch's writing style is unique, and belongs in the company of other great authors such as Steven Erikson, Glenda Larke, Raymond Feist, and George R. R. Martin (when will Dance of Dragons see the light of day?!) I enourage anyone who is a fan of fantasy to check this out!
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
Scott Lynch does an admirable job of world-building for this monster of a story, and thankful he managed to do it without sacrificing the characters. Unlike many authors who set their world up before really getting into the story and giving their characters depth, Lynch admirably managed to fairly seamlessly blend all three. Though the story begins with Locke as a youth, it doesn't remain linear for its entire length. Instead we switch between past and present, but not through the more common method of flashbacks. Instead the switch is just that simple, though of course the timing is impeccable, with the shifts in time offering necessary information just when it's most needed. Though there is some action in the beginning, much of it is more focused on world-building and character development, yet it never seems to feel as if it is moving too slowly. By the time the full-on action is introduced you are in too deep to do anything but proceed forward, with caution, trepidation, and a whole heap of excitement. Well deserved excitement I might add. The entire book builds toward the culmination found in the final chapters, and has more twists and turns than an eighty-year-old doorknob in a popular hotel. Of course I think that at least half the excitement from the action is due to how Lynch manages to get you to care for the characters, and become emotionally invested in their physical and mental well-being. One sign of just how well he manages to pull this off is the way you find your sympathies going to Locke and friends rather than the innocent victims of their scams. Again I found that switching between past and present was not only informative - with just the right information at the right time - but also an excellent device to help maintain the suspense and excitement at any given point in the game, or in their lives. Though this book is lengthy it is well worth sticking with it, as Lynch manages to pull off one surprise after another. By the end I found myself relieved to have a break on the characters' behalf, but also ready to see what mischief they will get into next.
theladychaos More than 1 year ago
UNBELIEVABLY good. I am a voracious fantasy reader and have read my fair share of so-so, lets pass the time type novels. NOT this book. I could not put it down. The characters are fantastically dynamic and the plot is intriguing, exciting, and filled hard core action scenes. If you like Abercrombie's hard boiled style, and you like cocky lovable scoundrels, you will LOVE this. Seriously, read this and be entertained like you never have before. I finished it in about three days and instantly bought the next book in the series and am impatiently waiting for the next one.
gurrt More than 1 year ago
After reading the first two of the "Kingkiller Chronicles" I was pretty sure I'd never love another fantasy book or series as much as that one... until I found this. I couldn't put down either this or the sequel with ease. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Thank you for the late nights, and I anticipate the rest of the series with pleasure!
ShellBell93 More than 1 year ago
Scott Lynch has intricately blended an astounding cast of characters, a riveting plotline, and an extremely well developed setting for an astonishingly well written novel. After scouring the fantasy genre for new books to read, I finally stumbled across this series in a second hand book shop. I can honestly attest to the power that this book has over its readers. You truly fall in love with the characters and are held firmly in this books grasp from first page to last. If I could choose one book to read in this genre (and possibly out of any genre) this book would be the one! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves amazing fantasy literature!
Squirbly More than 1 year ago
I read this book at the same time as two of my friends and all three of us loved it. It keeps you hooked throughout the whole story with its amusing characters and their clever tricks. Even if you are not wanting to read the whole series, I would still recommend this book to you because it stands up well on its own and has a very satisfying ending.
colorsplash7 More than 1 year ago
I happened on this book by way of Patrick Rothfuss's" Kingkiller Chronicles" and I am so glad I did. I was sure that I would not find a book to even compare after reading Rothfuss and wham Bam I was introduced to "the Lies Of Lokle Lamora" and away I flew. The characters are just the best and the plot(S) were fantastic. I absolutely loved this book and I am diving headfirst into his next "Red Seas Under Red Skies" as I write this review. Read it and ENJOY!!!!
JewelDragon More than 1 year ago
The Lies of Locke Lamora made me laugh, cry, smile. The book is engagingly written with endearing characters. Thieves with a swashbuckling style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Wish I could give it more stars!! Whole series is spectacular!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It started out a little slow...but boy did it pick up and end with a bang!!  Definitely recommended.  Well written and fun to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed every chapter of this one.
Pondo More than 1 year ago
Good stuffs...not sure how you could be down on this dialogue-driven juggernaut++
Razor70 More than 1 year ago
Just as my headline says, this book is a great read..but only after you get about half way through does it really pick up and is much more entertaining to read. I'm reading it for a book club (The Sword & Laser) and was a bit afraid that it might not be something I would enjoy. But so far I really have, if you enjoy fantasy, give this book a try you might just like it as much as I do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kfcnhc More than 1 year ago
I just happened upon this book a week ago. I love stories that are set in an 'older' time and are about thieves and assassins. This one falls under thieves obviously. There are so many twists and unexpected turns in this book! They were all creative and excellent. I could not put this down. I read this in just a few days it is that good! How anyone could say this book is boring is beyond me. It is funny, fun, exciting, surprising, and just beyond words. The only thing I would change, is to take our have the curse words. Most of them were very well placed, but there were times when it did get distracting and I needed to skip over them. It did not take away from the story though. I cannot wait to start reading the next in the series.
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This book was thrilling,adventurous and smart.
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Looking forward to more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really good read. The main characters make this novel really shine. The villian is a little dull for me, but if you look past the immediate impression, the villian was probably just there to give short term conflict, truly expendable, that villain... The true story lies with the back and forth with another character (I won't give anything away) and the friendship between the main characters. Anyway, really good read good book!