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.


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