Review: “Three Parts Dead” by Max Gladstone

Title: “Three Parts Dead”

Author: Max Gladstone

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal

Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (Tor/Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher provided finished copy/NetGalley review copy

Summary: 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.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – absolutely gorgeous, brutal – more is needed. NOW.

Review: Definitely one of the most original novels I’ve read in the last five years, “Three Parts Dead” is part police-procedural, part urban fantasy, part sci-fi, and part murder mystery. Oh, and it’s ALL fun. By combining elements one wouldn’t likely think would fit together, this is a beautiful, wonderful novel that I can only hope is not a standalone (really, I want more, and now) and hopefully a start to a new series. If you’re bored with urban fantasy or plain ol’ fantasy, this is so definitely the book for you.

When I say this book is a breath of fresh air, I really mean it. Gladstone is ridiculously talented, and it’s hard to believe that this is his debut. We start off with action from page one, and this book barrels through at a brutal pace (yet allows enough time for the reader to absorb all of the teeny tiny details he’s put into everything) up until the very last page. The worldbuilding is incredible, as is the pantheon that Gladstone creates, along with introducing the concept that gods are just higher beings, but not necessarily the highest OF beings when compared to humans (or Craftsmen). The characters do move and grow even with the fast pace of this book, and they do get their own character arcs, much to my satisfaction.

Basically, Gladstone was able to master both having a plot-driven and character driven book at the same time. And I find that incredible.

Worldbuilding: Pantheons. Cities all over the place on a world that just might be ours (it feels like Gladstone is kind of teasing us with that near the end of the story), or an alternate version of ours. Wars where Gods die like men. The Craftsmen, which are in between gods and men, but become what they use in their Craft. The land he built in Alt Coulumb reminded me quite a bit of China Mieville’s “The City and the City” in terms of topography – there are pieces of everywhere that clash – the red light district next to Kos Everburning’s Church, and so forth, but they also melt together. We get to go all over this city, as well as beyond the sea to places like Iskari, which is a little more vaguely defined, and I kind of wanted a little more detail on them. I’m hoping more information about the other cities in the New World (aka, the world with more Craftsmen and regular men than Gods) in the next book, if it is coming.

Characters: I loved the basic idea put forth that Craftsmen are very ambiguous when it comes to ambition, goal, and intent. Gladstone reasserts this idea repeatedly with all three main Craftsmen in the book – Tara, Alexander, and Elayne. He compares them with the pure of heart Stone Men, of Justice (even if that purity does eventually become corrupt), and of those who serve Kos Everburning (Abelard). Gods, on the other hand, seem a lot less complex than men and Craftsmen, and that’s implied repeatedly as a contrast to all of the other characters. Gods are these huge creatures, but they live and die just like any other creature on earth. They may just be more powerful and live a little longer, but as the police procedural/murder mystery component tells us over and over again, gods can definitely be killed. Aside from gods, no one is just evil, or just good – everyone is gray, including Justice, as it’s eventually revealed. And I loved how he really pounded that truth home in various ways throughout the book, throughout different situations.

Sensory input: The fight scenes in court were some of my favorites because they were just so deliciously different. Yeah, we’ve seen normal human trials, and how lawyers verbally spar with each other the whole time. Here? The lawyers REALLY fight in front of the judge, who gets possessed as a mouthpiece to serve Justice, just as the blacksuits do, but in a larger capacity. These were vivid, and I could feel each slice, each parry down to my bones. The weapons were cool, the space around them was cool, and it was all just so awesome I almost couldn’t stand it. It made me wish I’d thought of it all first, and those books usually end up becoming my favorites.

So if you’re looking for something new, I really highly suggest “Three Parts Dead”, out now from Tor in North America. It’s on my best of 2012 list for a reason, so be sure to check it out and see why. It definitely deserves the read.


2 thoughts on “Review: “Three Parts Dead” by Max Gladstone

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: The First Book Comes…First!?! | The Musing Pony

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