The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

A caper set in Renaissance Venice if it were controlled as much by the Mafia as the merchants, where magic is real but very expensive, and someone is hunting down gang leaders one by one.

I found this caper pretty predictable most of the way through. For the first half of the book or so, this is deliberate. We get the conclusion first, then a flashback with the story leading up to it. I didn’t enjoy that style of storytelling. If I already know how a story ends, the story itself had better be full of surprising twists and turns. Not in this book. Even after the flashbacks end the story keeps spoiling its own plot. The reader is a little too in on the caper.

It was just OK. There are more books in the series but I don’t plan to read them.

Last Argument of Kings

by Joe Abercrombie

The decrepit king finally dies and his successor surprises everyone. The kingdom is threatened by a peasant revolt. And before the army can return from the North the massive Gurkish army attacks the city with one hundred Eaters on their side.

On the one hand, this is a fully satisfying conclusion to the series. On the other hand, by the end you’ll hate—or at least be very disappointed by—every single character.

Before They Are Hanged

by Joe Abercrombie

The stage was set in The Blade Itself. Now the story splits into three: all-out war in the North, a hopeless battle in the South, and a quest for a world-saving magic item in the West. A connector that substantially develops the main characters.

A worthy sequel. Just remember: the more you start to like someone, the more likely it is that they are about to do something terrible.

The Blade Itself

by Joe Abercrombie

The plot is a pretty familiar fantasy epic. A central kingdom threatened from abroad. A cast of main characters with important roles to play in the war to come. Supernatural forces pulling strings in the background. A quest to the edge of the known world.

What sets it apart is the cast of characters. There are no heroes in this story. Among the main characters in this book are a career murderer, a selfish dandy swordsman, a bitter torturer, a drunk sister and her brother, a ruthless manipulative wizard. And so on. They are all compromised, but you’ll end up starting to like each of them—right before they do something terrible again. Nobody is redeemed.

And it works. The storytelling is great, you’ll get into the characters, and you won’t want to put the book down. I didn’t.