Book Review: Three Parts Dead

While I’m taking classes over the summer and studying for the GRE, I’m also working on getting caught up with some reading that is way overdue. I have a summer reading list that is currently about 30 titles long, and I’m sure I’ll be adding titles to that list as the year goes on. My staple genre will always be fantasy, and the last book I read is no exception to that.

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, the first of the Craft Sequence, begins with the death of a god and the Craftswomen who have been called to investigate the cause. The magic wielded by Crafters is nothing other than the necromantic arts. They can resurrect the dead – up to a point. There is something about dying that prevents complete resurrection. The personality cannot be held intact. And Tara Abernathy, the main character, has been enlisted to aid a more experienced Crafter in her investigation into the death of a god, Kos the Everburning.

In Three Parts Dead, Gladstone has managed to combine fantasy and legislation in a way that makes investigation seem three parts danger, one part paperwork – and even the paperwork can be deadly. There are gargoyles, vampires, necromancers, gods, and humans that all have separate agendas, and Gladstone does an amazing job weaving these plot elements together. I rarely find books that are able to surprise me, but the foreshadowing he uses is so subtle that the resolution of the plot isn’t made completely clear until the end of the book. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m particularly impressed with his skill in weaving such complexity into a book that became a page-turner. I consumed it in three hours, and I’ve put the rest of the series on hold at my county library.

Gladstone took some impressive risks with this book, especially when it comes to combining law and fantasy. I’m not sure that it has ever been done before, and this book is far too underrepresented for how apt a writer Gladstone is. On top of combining two risky genres, the main character in the story is a black woman. Within the fantasy genre, minorities are still incredibly underrepresented, and Gladstone’s contribution in that area was (and continues to be) sorely needed.

No matter the reason you pick up this book, I have a hard time imagining anyone who would be displeased with it. For me, the first book of this series, the Craft Sequence, was such an amazing read that it has gained a spot in my top ten fantasy series of all time – and considering how well-read I am within the fantasy genre, that’s no mean feat.


Poem: I Shake

I shake when I meet someone new,

but I know they cannot see the tremor

because I have learned to hide it so

well sometimes I even fool myself

into thinking that I’m not constantly

worrying about what it is that this

new person is thinking about me.


I learned to hide the fear, the anxiety

I had that the people that I liked

would fail to like me in return, that

the people who I met would find me

wanting in a way I wouldn’t understand,

a way I wouldn’t be able to fix because

the trouble would have to be with me.


I learned to view the people who didn’t

like me the way I liked them, the ones

who found no worth in me – I learned

to see them as the ones to turn to, the

ones to ask about the problems with me

so that I could fix myself as if I were a

broken tool in need of serious repair.


I don’t remember when I started to see

myself as a broken object, a tool that

had no function except that function

the people around me gave me, as if

I was nothing more than the item they

could use to assuage their own fears.


I don’t remember when I shook that,

when I started to view myself as human,

as a person, worthy of care and respect

in return for being human, being here,

but somewhere along the way I stopped

viewing myself as a tool for others to use

to vent their own anger, their own tears.


I shake when I meet someone new because

I am asking myself what I should expect –

will this new person treat me like a tool

or will they treat me like a human, and

what is it I need to do to make sure they

don’t mistake me for the former –


And I shake because I know I act against

the grain, I know I make people shy away

because I don’t fit into their definitions of

normal, and I worry that I’m going to have

to defend myself against an onslaught of

disapproval, of distaste, of disdain.


I hear others talk about how they act against

society because they don’t care what others

think about them, and inside, I am squirming

because I do care; I care so much it hurts, and

I don’t go against the grain because it’s expected –

it’s part of who I am, woven into the very fabric

of the person I have become, and I won’t reject

any of the experiences that have come to define me.


I can face rejection, I can face hatred, and I can

face it when the new people I meet decide that

I am not worth their time, not worth their respect

because they learn something about me they

don’t like. But facing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t

hurt, doesn’t cut to the bone, doesn’t make me

want to scream and cry and rage until I’m hoarse.


I shake when I meet someone new because

I know the odds are stacked against me – I know

that there are so many parts of me that society

rejects out of hand, but I don’t hate the people

who hate me for what they do not understand.

It hurts me, cuts me deeply, but I feel sorrow far

more often than I feel anger or betrayal.


Because I love to meet new people, to learn their stories,

to hear their tales and try to understand their lives

from the perspectives in which those lives were lived.

There are so many people, so many lives, so many paths

that are so similar and yet so different, and there is such a

myriad of human experience it steals my breath away.


Yet, I shake when I meet new people, and it may be

that I will always shake – out of fear of being judged

yet again, out of excitement at the prospect of meeting

a new friend – and I will always care too much.

That’s part of who I am, who I have become, and

I can accept who I am, even as my voice trembles

and my body shivers as I greet someone new –

I will always speak my truth, even if I shake.

Poem: Waiting


I remember nights spent

staring at walls, waiting

for the fighting to stop,

waiting for a moment to

breathe before the world

around me fell apart.


I remember the solidness

of my sister as she lay beside

me, holding her breath at the

same time I was holding mine,

waiting for the chaos to pass.


I remember the yelling, the

words that never quite fit

together in rational patterns

and the solid thump of fists

meeting flesh while waiting,

frozen in tension, frozen in fear.


I remember never knowing

what the next moment held

contained within it, always

looking ahead with an eye to

the next moment I would be

holding my breath, waiting.


I remember so much waiting

that it is as if my entire life

became a collection of moments,

of snapshots of frozen terror,

to be relived over and over, as

each coalesced into waiting.


Waiting for the next terror,

for the next abuse, for the

next harsh word, the next

physical blow – the violence

turned into what I expected,

became what I waited for.


Now, I wait with breath held

for the next moment of frozen

terror to lift its head from where

it lays dormant – sometimes, I wish

it would rise, give chase – at least

then, I could finally stop waiting.