PUBLISHER: Tor Books
RELEASE DATE: 2nd Oct 2012
FORMAT: Hardback, 336 pages
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. (Goodreads)
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone weaves an intricate world of gods and guardians together, along with the magical art of Craft, to create a story that will test the very nature of belief.
Tara Abernathy is an ex-student of the Hidden Schools of Craft, a type of magic that allows her to resurrect the dead and carry out all manners of other unexplainable events, such as stealing someone’s face. It is a secret that must be kept hidden in her parental village of Edgemont, but before long she is called upon by Elayne Kevarian to become an apprentice and help to solve a mystery in the city of Alt Coulumb.
Alt Coulumb is the last remaining district with a god after the God Wars, the almighty Kos Everburning. However, their god has died and it is up to Elayne and Tara to find a way to bring him back to life. Kos is responsible for running the steam generators, water coolers and a host of other technology in the city, meaning that without him it is only a matter of time before things start to crumble.
Tara is assisted in her task by Abelard, a priest and technician of Kos who is also a chain-smoker, unable to be seen without a cigarette hanging from his lips. He is a little uncertain of Tara’s Craft at first, particularly as she is sceptical of his beliefs and doesn’t understand why the priests are so devoted to Kos. Regardless, he aids Tara as best he can and accompanies her at every stage of the investigation, no matter how dangerous.
Elsewhere, whilst Tara investigates what could have happened to Kos, the Blacksuits of Justice patrol the streets, serving their own divine cause. Justice is said to be the replacement of the Goddess Seril who died during the God Wars, leaving Kos to rule the city alone. Her Blacksuits are ordinary humans who come encased in a black fog to shroud their identities, sharing a collective consciousness with each other when they transform. They are the replacements of the Stone Guardians, gargoyles who previously served Seril and are now outcast and hunted.
These Guardians were cast out after serving Seril in the God Wars, blamed for her downfall and desperate to prove their innocence. When one is found at the crime scene of a murder, with the victim being integral to Tara’s investigation, it becomes clear that these Guardians may not be as innocent as they claim. The investigation is further compromised by the arrival of Alexander Denovo, an ex-professor of Tara’s and an old acquaintance of Elayne’s. He is not to be trusted at any cost, and opposes their findings at every turn, trying to use his Craft to slip into Tara’s mind.
I found this book to contain an incredible amount of intricate details as both the city of Alt Coulumb and the school of Craft are set up, as there several dimensions to the magic and the city’s structure that are too complex to list here. As a result I found the opening of the novel quite complicated to follow and it was a mental chore to continue reading, as there is almost an information overload as the foundations are laid. However, the book does begin to pick up after a while, and becomes a great read.
Tara is a protagonist unlike any other, as she is strong to a certain degree, but still maintains some weaknesses from her lack of experience. We learn little about her in this first book, as we are only gifted with a little background about her time at the Hidden School. This didn’t irk me as much as other books have done, as the action is firmly rooted in the present, with Tara having a lot to worry about in terms of who she can and can’t trust. This makes her wary of her surroundings and even of Abelard at first, with friendships being slow to form.
It is not abundantly clear at the beginning what has happened to Kos, whether it’s possible for the god to have been murdered, or whether his power simply ran out. As a result it makes it hard to know who the potential culprit might be if the investigation is indeed that of a murder. The book also raises questions about the value of belief, as the priests maintain their belief in Kos even after his demise, as do the Stone Guardians in their goddess. It created an interesting dilemma throughout, about whether it’s worth believing in something that no longer exists.
I ended up enjoying the plot of this book at the end, but the slow start did make me want to abandon it at first. I’d advise anyone to stick with it, as despite some of the confusing scenes there are strong characters and an evil that knows no morals. In future I would like to know more about Elayne, as she remains shadowed in mystery but possesses a scary amount of power in comparison to others who practice Craft. Definitely a unique fantasy series, the epilogue left me wanting to know more and now I can’t wait to read book two.
This book is very complex to begin with as the world is set up and it was a little confusing to follow all of the new characters who were introduced. However, after this world-building the plot improves and it was interesting to watch the mystery unravel. I would have liked to see a little more character development of Tara, but she still makes for a strong protagonist.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Three Parts Dead
- Two Serpents Rise
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