The first modern fantasy that really popped my eyes open, and reignited my faith in the genre. Exquisitely plotted, paced and realised, it stands out from the seething maelstrom like a shark amid minnows. And there is nary an elf of dwarf in sight! Epic quest type stories are fantastic, but they’re all a pale shadow to Tolkien, and Lynch has steered away from it completely. Lies reads more like a crime story with a background of fantasy thrown in, and added to with clever dialogue spiced with the odd curse, it’s more like reading a Guy Ritchie movie than fantasy.
There are a few themes which are sourced from well known places, like the Dickensian beginnings of the lead character, who feels a lot like a foul mouthed Oliver Twist; and the setting for the story is a twisted Venice. One thing I loved was the way in which Lynch handled his magic. Every fantasy has it, and while some do it well, others do it less so. There is the almost scientific version, found in Brandon Sanderson’s books, or the almost comic, as in Discworld’s. Lies’ takes the path of mystery. His users of magic are shady types portrayed to be all-powerful, yet more like the faceless puppeteers behind some terrible corporation than wizards or magi, and his Eldren ruins make you want to read on just to find what the bloody hell they are.
I enjoy stories in which the plot doesn’t set the leads up to succeed. Epic quest fantasy is fine, but if there’s an evil dark lord involved somewhere, and a plucky young protagonist with a magic sword bound by fate to fight him, it’s not too difficult to predict who’s going to win. Lynch’s world of elaborate confidence crime, with leads who inhabit a very cut-throat scene, lends itself perfectly to ambiguity. It’s just as likely for Locke to end up decidedly worse off than where we start with him, and that makes for compelling reading.
Sadly, the only thing that lets it down is there are only two. Clearly there is a lot more still to be discovered, but with two out of seven books currently in print, I’ll be waiting around a while to find out.