7 July 2017

Book Review: Three Parts Dead

Title: Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence, #1)
Author: Max Gladstone
Year of publishing: 2012
Published by: Tor Books
Source: City Library 

You can also read my review for Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence, #3).

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs

A vampire, a sorceress, and a chain-smoking priest walk into a bar...

Three Parts Dead is Gladstone's debut novel, and it's the first in the long Craft Sequence series. Every novel is a self-contained story, that takes place in the same shared universe, which is something that I like about this series. You don't have to read the first two books to enjoy the third.

Here, we follow Tara Abernathy - a strong-willed young Craftswoman who has been kicked out of the magic school. Injured and disgraced, she comes back to her home village. But her home bliss doesn't last long as she is soon hired by an old Craftswoman from a prestige necromancy firm. Their first mission takes them to the city of Alt Coulumb, where they must resurrect a recently deceased god without whom the city that worships him will fall apart. Tara's first case will involve murder, conspiracy, vampires, and it will bring her face-to-face with demons from her past.

For a debut novel, Three Parts Dead is really good. It's a straightforward, confident novel, with an exciting story, which rests on a foundation of a well-realised world. Gladstone borrows elements and tropes from an array of different genres, such as fantasy, steampunk, and vampires, and incorporates them into his own unique universe. And he does it, for the most part, successfully.

There are some inconsistencies; some details that I wish would have been explained better. For instance, Alt Coulumb is a modern city with skyscrapers, and most of the attributes of a modern, post-industrialist society, but the city's only means of transportation are horse-drawn carriages. Can it be one of the setbacks that the city is facing after the devastating God Wars? Or could it be that the citizens simply prefer not to pollute their city and their lungs with exhaust gas? It's discrepancies like this that make it kind of difficult to understand this world sometimes.

Nonetheless, I really like this "post-war fantasyland", as Gladstone himself describes it. It breathes with life and colours. It's diverse, in terms people, cultures, and philosophies. I like the hostility between the clergy and the Craftsmen. There's a great deal of politics, and legal stuff that make this world more real, and down-to-earth.

Just like in the case of Full Fathom Five, I ended up liking the world more than the story itself. It's a solid story, a competent mystery with a lot of dark turns and juicy conspiracies. Some questions are raised about morality, duty, faith, and corruptibility of the church. However, the book doesn't delve very deep into these subjects. The characters here deal with quite heavy issues, but once the main conflict is resolved, these issues kind of... well, I wouldn't say go away, but the discussion kind of stops there.

The language is beautiful, but it lacks the poetry, the nuance that made Full Fathom Five so great, but that's more of compliment to Full Fathom Five than a critique of Three Parts Dead.

All things considered, this is a confident entry in a series with a lot of potential. I can't wait to go back to that world.

My rating

Plot: 4 stars
Story: 3 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 3 stars

Total: 3 stars

You can read more about the Craft Sequence on the author's website, MaxGladstone.com

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