Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

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Rating 9.0/10
A unique experience to traditional fantasy and urban fantasy enthusiasts alike.

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Three Parts Dead is the first book of the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone, an urban fantasy set in a sprawling city on a world different to our own, full of familiar supernatural creatures and unfamiliar gods and magic. This is the first book in the series but, from what I understand, each book in the series is self contained and can be read as standalone novels as they are all set at different times in different locations involving different characters. It's a shame if this is the case, as I would love to read more about Tara, Elayne, Abelard, Cat and Raz.

The story follows Tara Abernathy, necromancer, who is living with her superstitious parents in their superstitious community after being expelled from the hidden schools (for reasons that are revealed late in the book). She is rescued from her boring solitude by Elayne Kevarian who offers her a chance to become an associate for the leading necromantic Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao. All she has to do is travel with Elayne to the city of Alt Coulumb and resurrect their god Kos Everburning before creditors can claim ownership of his dominion.

Three Parts Dead is different, taking what you thought you knew about urban fantasy and giving it a solid twist. Alt Coulumb is a modern city for the most part, but effective operation of just about every piece of infrastructure in the city is reliant on the power of a god and the faith of his followers. And this godly power, like all godly power in the Craft universe, can be bought, sold, traded, or loaned between one god and another. Just from this very basic description, you can see the level of complexity that Gladstone has built into this world, and its impressiveness is matched by its steep learning curve. I listened to the audio version of this book (narrated brilliantly by Claudia Alick), and that made things hard to follow at the start as the narrator sped through a stack of unfamiliar words, but once the hooks are in, there is no turning back.

While the worldbuilding really shines in this novel, the characters are just as good with their own complexities and eccentricities. Tara Abernathy is a vibrant effervescent character, something you just don't see a lot of lately with all the brooding anti-heroes stealing the show. She has a checkered past, a point to prove, and she will prove it with a spring in her step and smile on her face. This contrasts quite effectively with her dark brooding mentor, Elayne Kevarian, who is like the female necromantic version of Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon (she is too old for this shit). It also contrasts with her bevy of assistants, from the chain-smoking priest Abelard whose timidness hides substantial competence, to the drug-addicted Cat who has the hardness of a beat-cop but would throw it all away to get her next fix, and to the vampire ship-captain Raz whose experience and competence can't stop him from getting beaten up at the end of almost every scene. This wide array of eclectic characters bring a lot of banter to the table, and it makes this book so much fun despite it being a book about finance, accounting, and paying off creditors.

Three Parts Dead offers a unique experience to traditional fantasy and urban fantasy enthusiasts alike. Gladstone has mixed elements from a variety of different genres to create expansive and complex world, and then allows the reader to explore a single part of this world in detail through a tightly bounded story. I haven't even touched on the gargoyles, the supernatural police force, the extra-dimensional libraries, or the court-room battle arenas. I want to read more Craft books. I need to know more about this world.

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