22 July 2013

Book review: Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Gladstone is a nominee for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

This is a fun read. Tara Abernathy is a Craft user, who was thrown out of the Hidden Schools. This is more dangerous than it sounds, because the Hidden Schools float in the clouds, so she was expected to plummet to her death. She didn't, and she went back to her small home town, where she has to hide the fact that she's a Craft user. After she reanimates some guards killed by marauders, and the town notices, Elayne Kevarian shows up with a job offer from the firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao. Tara takes it to escape death by pitchfork.

Their job is to reanimate the god Kos the Everburning in Alt Coulumb, who died suddenly a day or two before.

The one thing that kept bugging me was the setting: I couldn't decide if this was supposed to be steampunk-ish, modern, future, or what. About a hundred years before the beginning of the novel, there was a war between the gods and the craftspeople, and some gods were defeated while others retreated or consolidated into a stronghold, like Alt Coulumb. Gods made contracts to share their powers with other city-states or nations, based on how much worship they receive. (Worship feeds the gods, and their surplus energy can be shared.)

Craftsmen and -women are essentially magic lawyers, and trials are literally courtroom battles. Tara's job is to review all the contracts on Kos' power at the time of his death and convince the magic judge that he wasn't overextended. This is a lot more interesting than it sounds summarized like that.

The narrative style is easy to follow, and there's quite a lot of dry humor. I'd recommend this book.

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