This review is also available on my blog, Stumptown Books
When life is viewed as a game of chess, each action causes a reaction. Each ponderous thought has far reaching consequences for the players, each decision makes another door close. Unfortunately, it also means a piece can be removed from the board at any time, with little to no ceremony. George R.R. Martin subscribes to this school of thought, and the aches his books caused in my spleen still aren't completely gone. I remember thinking for DAYS afterwards that this or that character wouldn't really be dead. I'd turn the page and the next chapter would be titled with their name and it would be their point of view and everything would be right with the world again.
This is not a school of thought I take great pleasure in. I read fantasy because I enjoy leaving this world behind and wrapping myself up in a different one. When my favorite characters in that new world die...well. I have issues with it. BIG issues. Scott Lynch is a strict adherent to this philosophy. The first time a character died, I was convinced (really, really convinced. I told my boyfriend how she was hiding and what it would mean to the story when she came back) that it was all an elaborate ruse. How wrong I was! And then MORE died, and although my heart broke alongside their bodies, for some reason, with this story...it all worked for me. The story is woven in front of the reader in such a way that in the end it seems the only way it was possible for the events to happen. This is Scott Lynch's first novel, but search me as to how he managed to write it so well. None of it is cheesy, it's laugh out loud hilarious, and I-just-have-something-in-my-eye-those-aren't-tears sad.
One of the best fantasy novels I have read in a long time, yet I am scared to start the next one, for fear it won't hold up as well. That's not REALLY going to stop me, but the fear is there nonetheless. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks fantasy has been wrung out.