Three Parts Dead: A wonderfully inventive story

Three Parts Dead by Max GladstoneThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead is a wonderfully inventive story. Max Gladstone blends a plethora of ideas, ranging from vampires to magic to steampunk technology and adds interesting characters and a plot that is predictable but still enjoyable. The result is memorable.

Tara is a recently expelled student in the art of the Craft. A Craftsman or Craftswoman is the equivalent of a magician or sorcerer, someone who has learned how to use the energies of the world to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Tara’s fall from the Hidden Schools — think of a floating university for sorcerers — was both literal and logical: she had to fight her way out of the school before being physically dropped from its heights. Tara’s story is central to the book as she goes from expelled student to local healer to temporary employee for one of the large firms that traffic in Craft-enabled work.

In the city of Alt Columb, the god of fire, Kos, has been killed. This is critical to the city, as his power serves as its driving force. Gladstone creates a unique (and very cool) steampunk framework by which Kos’s power serves as fuel for the city and also as a sort of currency. The priests who serve Kos are naturally distraught at his death and the second- and third-order effects that threaten to throw the world into chaos.

Tara and her senior partner Ms. Kenvarian are sent in response to this catastrophe. Between ascertaining the cause of Kos’s death and preparing for the legal consequences (both theological and secular) that follow, they are heavily tested. Working with Abelard, the monk who was tending the shrine to Kos when he died, and Cat, the vampire junkie/local cop, things begin to get complicated in a hurry.

The war between humans and Gods in Three Parts Dead is fascinating. While the idea of humans learning to harness the power of the stars, the earth and their own life force is nothing new, the fact that it enabled them to fight and win a war with the gods is more provocative. The lasting damage that was done to the planet, the catastrophic upheaval for the normal populace and the eventual peace provide solid support to the logical construct that the world rests on. I also liked the fact that working with magic is not for the faint of heart, that using it has lasting consequences and that normal people don’t trust people who use magic; it makes perfect sense. At the basis of Three Parts Dead is an almost common-sense approach to fantasy. I loved it.

Three Parts Dead — (2012) Publisher: 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.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

View all posts by John Hulet (RETIRED)

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  1. Thoughtful Thursday: Oh gods! | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - [...] we welcome Max Gladstone, author of Three Parts Dead which I found to be inventive and enjoyable. Max wants to …

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