Three Parts Dead

May 31, 2017 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, )

threeThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone


The Craft Sequence has been on my radar for a while, but up until a few weeks ago, it hadn’t been a contender for reading outside of my normal schedule. That changed for two reasons: a friend of mine recently finished it and gave it a great review; and I read an article by Gladstone where he talked about the importance of character. The article was sharp and on point, and I realized if someone had that innate of an understanding of character, it was probably time for me to read his books.

Three Parts Dead is the first of five (so far) novels in the sequence, all told out of sequential order. Here, we meet Tara Abernathy, a woman who recently graduated from what amounts to mage school, but the mages here — known as Craftsmen — use their powers to enforce the law. When a god dies, she’s hired by a firm to help determine what caused his death, and how they can resurrect him. Simple stuff, right?

The book is touted as a combination urban fantasy and legal thriller, but honestly, it felt more like an urban fantasy mystery to me. I might be splitting hairs with my distinction, but other than the fact that part of the story takes place in court, I wouldn’t have thought of this as a legal thriller at all. It’s well written, with a complex plot that wraps up without cheating the reader, and it’s full of realized characters and creative ideas. It reminded me of China Miéville, though much more approachable and readable.

Gladstone fills this book with a lot of ideas — gods, vampires, and mages only touch the surface of his well — so much of the story is world-building. There’s a lot of it, but none of it feels out of place. Instead of relying on info-dumps throughout the story, Gladstone lets the details grow organically through dialogue, situations, and characters. It means that it will take a little more time to get the story, but I kind of like that approach to a story anyway.

There were moments in the story where I got lost, thanks in part to how much Gladstone was putting into the story, but it was also due to his getting too poetic in his narrative. He kept making comparisons that weren’t concrete (at one point he described something being “black as love”, or close to it), and they drew me out of the story. I get the feeling he was trying to avoid cliches, but I prefer similes that aren’t vague; they don’t make any sense in the end.

Overall, though, this is an impressive story. By the end, I was caught up enough in the story that I had to postpone my bedtime, and as the story drew to a close, the tension grew to the point where I could almost feel it. I had already picked up the remaining books in the series, thanks to all the good I had read about it, so I’m glad it turned out to be as good as I expected. I just hope the fact that they’re all published out of order won’t affect the rest of the series.

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