Three Parts Dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead #1

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.


The are few book that leave me speechless and Three Parts Dead is once of them. What Max Gladstone managed to pull of is just amazing. Three Parts Dead is remarkable, unique and refreshing. Max Gladstone is an author already on my favourite author list, he really went out there, blended several themes together to create a story that will stick with you. I like authors who takes those few extra steps and take existing genres further. 

Three Parts Dead is the first in the series with the same name. Three Parts Dead was already released last year, and also featured as Max Gladstone's debut. It has been high on my reading list but like many other books I haven't  gotten around reading it until now, I already had a copy of Two Serpents Rise, book two in this series but I really wanted to get the series from the start. Like I mentioned above, Three Parts Dead is unique. It's Urban Fantasy with a twist. Think an emphasis on lawyers, necromancy, gargoyles, vampire and gods. 

Max Gladstone really knew how to write up the perfect engaging introduction. With the first focus on the events of Kos the Everburning and later introducing the main protagonist of the story Tara Abernathy, who is thrown out of the Hidden Schools. And no, she isn't an angel sent from Heaven! The reason of how she was thrown out of the Hidden Schools remains obscure until much later on. Tara's introduction also introduces us to the magic of the world. Craft. With the event focusing on going back to her parents, Tara already shows just a small part of what is possible with the Craft, which is very interesting to say the least. Finding that her place isn't among the farmers, she is hastily offered a job for the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albreacht and Ao. A lot of good stuff in only the first few pages of Three Parts Dead. And that is just the start of it all! 

Tara is an amazing protagonist in the book, she has a lot of virtues of a true heroine. Being expelled-graduated from the Hidden Schools and now finding herself working for one of the top firms in the world is quite a daunting task. Tara is trained in the Craft, which is used in necromancy but also sees it uses for a lot of other goals. Tara comes over as quite confident girl and more than suited for her task, she is eager to proof herself for the firm, but she also, in my opinion, has this tinge of doubt of herself. The fine details of her background, and how several relations with other characters came to pass is revealed only later in the book, but proved to be quite complex and very interesting and makes her character just super. 

The secondary characters of Three Parts Dead are shown in just the depth as Tara. To begin with her boss, Elayne Kevarian. Elayne has high standards and first came of as really a boss, quite strict. Similarly to Tara, slowly coming to understand more of her history makes her quite complex, she is strong character and really challenges Tara to become better in her task, without leaving herself loose track of the investigation. You see Elayne in many different daylights, from a humurous setting, to a more determined and even ruthless personality in the end of the book, the complexity surrounding her character neatly establishes her in the complex storyline. Another great addition to the storyline was Abelard a priest for the god Kos, he felt to my like a bit of a typical lackey and didn't know what to do once Kos dies. Abelard's character really jumps to the occasion first of in helping Tara in her investigation to uncover the truth but also when he is leading out investigations on his own, it just comes to show how individually strong and devoted he is. Abelard proves is many ways a underdog, don't count him out to soon as a no good. Just lastly I want to mention Alexander Denovo, his character is hard to pin down, his role in the story is quite interesting and shows a lot of twists and turn. From the start I just didn't trust him but he comes over in a very convincing way and actually in the end of the book my thoughts were turned around. Alexander has a history with both Elayne and Tara, which makes, once push comes to shove the whole story that much more lively and dynamic, all the characters relations among themselves proved to be quite complex at times but very rewarding.

As for the setting of Three Parts Dead. The whole story takes place in an imagined world, so no urban London or New York but in Alt Coulumb. There is also no mentioning of day and age so this roused my curiosity a lot. Don't think I don't like when real places are visited but with all the things that Max Gladstone introduces and showed how the world revolves really had a direct feed into my imagination. Like for example the gargoyles, also referred to as the Stone Men, able to transition from a stone body into a human body, how great is that! Or the entity known as Justice, an all present "voice" that makes sure justice is served via the Blacksuits (the policing force in the Three Parts Dead). And to top it all of the Craft, well with lightning knife pulled out of glyphs from your arms or the spells that can be Crafted i.e. necromancy or stealing a persons face, literally, it's amazing. Max Gladstone doesn't make this Craft element difficult for himself, yes there are rules and it isn't unlimited. But the way it is cast is "easy" with a few flicks of the wrist or using a hammer and nails. He makes the Craft quite diverse and a whole lot of fun to read about. The City of Alt Coulumb is just as great as the elements that dress it, having influences of Science Fiction, Fantasy and a hint of Steampunk thrown in the mix. Max Gladstone knows how to breath life into characters and the world itself with his clever and catchy writing. 

Plotwise the story goes through a lot of twists and turns, just like your average trial, mainly by the thorough investigation that is carried out by Tara. I did find myself backtracking a few chapters just to get the evidence straight! However this didn't make the book a slow or hard read, on the contrary, it is actually a fast-paced story that is hard to part with. I probably wont make a good investigator/lawyer since I was way off with who the eventual bad guys were. Max Gladstone introduced a lot of levels of complexity with side tracks in the investigation that weren't linked in the beginning but somehow proof to be important in the bigger picture, and likewise the storyline the characters are just as complex with the individual relation among them. In the end of the book there was a nice summary when Tara pleads her case, I didn't really link the events before this chapter to the statement of Tara when all of a sudden she made one particular statement and BAM! then I knew it! But that was only bad guy #1, yes there is more than one bad guy in Three Parts Dead. You will be amazed by how everything came to pass. 

Three Parts Dead left me speechless; it's a remarkable, refreshing and unique take on Urban Fantasy. If this book doesn't get you all fired I don't know what will. All the things, from the world to the characters that you were introduced to carried their own level of complexity making the storyline that more engaging. I really liked how this was shown, it felt that you were right their in the investigation of the murder of Kos with Tara and Abelard. The world and characters alone were just as interesting since each character felt that is was on the right spot and you really got to know them along the way; for better and for worse. Three Parts Dead is a book that leaves you with a thrill wanting more and luckily Two Serpents Rise will be out October 29th by Tor!  

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In more recent news, Max Gladstone has been nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Three Parts Dead. A well deserved nomination!

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