In an effort to get caught up on reviews, I’m writing some mini-reviews! Instead of writing my own plot description, I am just going to show the book blurb, followed by my thoughts on the book.
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.
There was no way I was not going to read Three Parts Dead after reading the description and a little bit of the beginning. I love stories involving gods, and I was rather intrigued by the idea of a woman whose job involved resurrecting a god from the dead. The opening line, “God wasn’t answering tonight,” drew me in along with the rest of the prologue and the first few pages about Tara being cast out from the Hidden Schools. After finishing the book, I wasn’t quite sure what to think, though. It had some excellent qualities and was very unique, but… I didn’t love it or find the story of investigating the death of the god particularly compelling. Even so, I am really interested in what Max Gladstone writes next since I did enjoy his writing style, world, and characters very much.
The world in Three Parts Dead has a touch of the familiar, but it’s mostly very unique and complex. It has a bit of an older-school modern city feel with horse-drawn taxis and clubs, and its population includes vampires, gargoyles, priests, and practitioners of Craft like Tara and her new boss, Elayne. There’s a lot to absorb with the gods, Craft, and the rules of this world. It’s fascinating, but at the same time I did think the world seemed simultaneously underdone and overdone, which I think is mainly due to its intricacy. Much of the world is revealed through infodumps and explanations in the dialogue, and I felt this made it seem overdone because there was so much information at once. On the other hand, there was so much to the world that it seemed to just be scratching the surface, leaving me feeling like I knew so little about it despite all the details I’d been told. Because of this, parts of the world seemed a bit vague to me despite the detail, but I did find it a very interesting place to visit.
In a lot of books that have investigations the characters seem like they are bumbling around to draw out the case, but the main characters in this one do not behave that way at all. Tara and Elayne are both very capable and intelligent, and Elayne especially is sharp-witted and observant. Even though I loved their portrayal, there seemed to be a distance from them. I understood their basic motivations, but I never felt that I understood who they truly were as people.
The author does know how to turn a phrase, and his characters display their intelligence through their dialogue and conversation. However, I did find the actual investigation to be dull other than how it turned out in the end. Three Parts Dead also had an amazing, memorable ending scene that completely took me by surprise (and convinced me that Elayne is just plain awesome).
It’s difficult to sum up my thoughts on Three Parts Dead. Part of me loves it since it’s not a dumbed down book that spells everything out for the reader, it has some really interesting characters who are intelligent and competent, and it has a great ending I was not at all expecting. Another of me doesn’t because there were times that the story itself bored me, despite all its other wonderful qualities, and I had some reservations about the amount of world detail. However, I do think it is a stellar debut, and the author has an excellent handle on writing, characters, and imaginative world-building. If the storyline had just drawn me in a bit more, I would have been enthralled by this book. As it is, I’d certainly like to read more by Gladstone since I think this novel had some excellent qualities.
My Rating: 7/10
Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.
Other Reviews of Three Parts Dead: