Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone – review

By on October 8, 2012

Publisher’s Description:

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. 

What I expected:  I expected this to be more of an urban fantasy – I must have missed the part of the description where it describes a world and city that don’t exist here.  My bad.  Of course, the cover denotes an urban fantasy, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it also truly represents the story.  In any case, I expected more of a detective type story with paranormal elements.

What I got:  I got a fantasy full of complex and interesting world building, really fascinating characters, and plot twists that made my head spin.  In a good way.  I got power lawyers versed in magic and contract loopholes and gods with contract issues, dead judges, a justice system run by the truly blind, and lots of other interesting little bits and pieces.

What I liked:  I loved that there were some interesting detecting skills being utilized and that the bad guy was very plausible in that he was a genius but only out for his own personal gain.  I also liked the utter weirdness of it – the idea of gods utilizing contracts to shuffle power between themselves, other gods, countries, people, etc.  Very unique.  I liked how the author envisioned the use of magic and using it in service to power contracts.  I also liked how the gods are basically another character in the story – with their foibles and odd or different ways – getting along with, or making jealous, the other characters in the story.

What I did not:  I felt that some of the magic was a bit easier than it should have been, even though it wasn’t really all that easy.  There was one inconsistency within the story–it wasn’t really crucial to the plot and was explained away too easily, but, with it not being crucial to the story, I just chalked it up to me being oversensitive.

Cover Talk:  I really like this cover.  It conveys the dark, gritty atmosphere and the determination on Tara’s face.  My only quibble is that it also could be mistaken for a contemporary urban fantasy set in our world, or something like it, which the book very much isn’t.

Recommend?  Absolutely, this is good fantasy.  A good mix of action and head work, but it may be a little tame for the action junkies out there.  I know there are some readers who do not like stories with gods in them because authors tend to use godly powers for easy plot hole fixes.  However, in this case, the gods are the ones in need of help, and all the plot holes get fixed by the other characters in the story.  So if you tend to shy away from stories with gods in them, you might still want to give this one a try.  It is different, a touch weird, a bit of fun, and it has a sense of humor though it isn’t laugh out loud funny.

About amberdrake