I read this book about 5-Jul-2013. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2006. This note was last modified Monday, 05-May-2014 22:17:01 PDT.
This is book 1 of the "Gentleman Bastard Sequence" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
The recruitment of Locke Lamora, and friends, into a high-level criminal syndicate running inside a temple to the Thirteenth God (appropriately, thieves fall within his purview). We gradually learn they're working at a much higher level than the criminal noble in charge of thieves understands—working to bring down the local political structure, no less.
We get flashback segments to lots of the training, which are interesting and give us a wider view into the world. We also get to watch them set up and execute some really major high-level con work.
In the end, things do not really go too well for them; to the extent where 3/5 of the group are dead.
There are interesting world-building questions. This is explicitly a world colonized by Earth-humans, but they don't have much technology (some pretty good chemistry thought of as "alchemy", good mechanical engineering, but no large-scale industrial manufacturing, no electronics, not much in optics (except corrective lenses for vision). And they're living in the ruins of alien structures on this world (made with "elder glass").
But none of that is ever really questioned or thought about. There's no sign of interstellar contact or communication, or of any feeling of loss about it. And there are the "bonds magi" who apparently do something that looks a lot like real magic, or at least sufficiently advanced technology (we don't see enough detail to recognize any specific technology; it may well be magic).
I found the voice and the characters very engaging (I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories, is part of it). This was a lot of fun to read.