Fantasy literature is filled to the brim with bromance. From Frodo and Sam to Tehol and Bugg, there is no shortage of shared man love to be had in the genre. But what makes a successful bromance? It’s not as simple as just pairing up a couple of dudes and sending them on some grand adventure to save the world. They have to have chemistry, a rapport that taps into the reader’s sense for companionship. They need to care for one another more than they care for themselves; the world could be getting swallowed by a space worm and still they would put the other first. Yes, there are many notable bromances in fantasy literature, but none so fully realized as The Gentleman Bastard’s Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen.
Written by Scott Lynch, The Gentleman Bastard sequence is a planned seven-part series, with three books currently released. The books follow the exploits of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, two master thieves set loose in a world fraught with increasing political tensions and looming war. Each novel thus far has taken place in a different city in this world, but the core has remained the same: the two are, either by force or choice, embroiled in some scheme or another that requires quick wits and careful planning to succeed. Think Ocean’s Eleven set in Westeros and you have a good idea what to expect.
A complicated heist is usually the crux of each story, with scenes of careful planning, inevitable improvisation, and quick-witted dialogue all expertly interwoven by Lynch. The true highlight of the series, however, is the relationship between Lamora and Tannen. The two constantly exhibit a dedication to one another that would make any average human being seethe with jealousy. Jean, the brawny and level-headed counterweight to Locke’s emotionally-driven recklessness, is the very definition of loyalty.
The apex of Jean’s devotion thus far in the series comes during a time when Locke is dying via poisoning and requires constant care. Here, Jean must tend to his dying friend while knowing that he may not pull through. It is beautiful to read and experience the love Jean shares for Locke during this time. Jean is told by doctor after doctor that Locke will die, and yet the love they share compels Jean to keep hiring more doctors, seeking a solution to an unsolvable problem. This relationship is the backbone of The Gentleman Bastards, as every scheme and conflict would be neigh impossible to overcome without it.
I read The Lies of Locke Lamora during a sensitive time in my life. The book spoke to me in a way that made me appreciate the relationships I have, and helped pick me up out of the rut I had dug for myself. Companionship is a powerful boon, and I learned that it’s not a weakness to use it as a crutch when you’re hobbling through life, directionless, as this quote makes clear:
“That sounds dangerous,” said Jean
“For anyone else, maybe. For Gentlemen Bastards, it’s just what we do.”