Monthly Archives: January 2015

Review: Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1)

[tw: drug use]

If you’ve read the review I just posted, you’ll notice that I very much enjoyed Max Gladstone’s writing, and when I enjoy someone’s writing, I naturally want to read everything they’ve written. Luckily for me, Max Gladstone’s written a few books set in the same universe as Choice of the Deathless. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

Tara Abernathy recently graduated from the Hidden Schools. Well, more like she graduated then was thrown out on her ass. Luckily for her, she’s quickly snatched up by the mysterious Lady Kevarian and made a junior associate at the firm Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao. Her first assignment? Travel to the city of Alt Coulumb and resurrect a dead god before the city’s steam generators shut down, causing the trains to stop and the people to riot. Her only help is a priest of the dead god, Abelard. Together, they need to discover what happened to the god and make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts. However, their search for the truth could put their lives–and the fate of an entire city–on the line.

Let’s get the fangasming out of the way. The world of the Craft Sequence is really interesting. This is a world where there are few true deities left, where deities enter into contracts that are handled by firms that specialize in that sort of thing, where the city’s police force is made up of faceless ordinary citizens who temporarily give up control to a goddess. The nightclubs and courts of Alt Coulumb wouldn’t be out of place in any urban fantasy story, and yet it’s not set on Earth, but in a secondary world.

I love Tara as a protagonist. She’s tough without being hyper aggressive (something that’s always annoyed me about urban fantasy heroines). She’s confident but knows when she’s in over the head. Abelard, meanwhile, is Tara’s opposite: he doesn’t have her expertise in the world of craft or lawyering, but he wants to help and his faith in his god (despite the fact that his god is dead) is strong. What’s really interesting about these characters is how all of them are a bit broken in some way. Tara is haunted by the circumstances surrounding her graduation, Abelard is undergoing a crisis of faith, a third character, Cat, is a desperate junkie who is always looking for her next fix (in this case, her fix is the euphoria caused by vampire bite), but they’re not all-consuming traumas. They have an effect on the characters without saturating the narrative. Something that made me really happy was that Tara and Abelard manage to work together without buckets of sexual tension or any romance to speak of, that’s right, no love triangles, no mush, just two characters working together to solve a problem.

This book is also a great example of “Show, don’t tell.” Many authors love to tell you about their worlds in info dumps, Gladstone expects you to dive in and swim around for a bit, and events won’t make sense until much later in the book. On the one hand, it’s nice to not be told everything all the time. On the other hand, It can be a bit confusing at that.moment in the story, leaving the reader scratching their head. Considering that this is a book where mystery is an essential element in the plot, it makes sense to not reveal everything right away, but I would have appreciated a bit of an explanation at certain points in the story.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of representation in this book. Other than Tara, there’s a black vampire captain named Raz who has a small impact on the plot, but IIRC Gladstone doesn’t describe the skin tones of the other characters. There don’t appear to be any queer characters either.

Other than the things I outlined above, there aren’t many negative things I can say about this book. I really enjoyed it and the sequel, Two Serpents Rise, is already in my to-read pile. If you’re a fan of legal thrillers or urban fantasy or both, I recommend adding Three Parts Dead to your collection.

 

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Game Review: Choice of the Deathless

Happy New Year! If you’ve had a great year, here’s hoping 2015 is even better. If you’ve had a crappy year, I hope 2015 is amazing for you.

I’d like to kick the year off with a couple of reviews: two works by an author I’ve come to love in the past few months. I was originally going to review Choice of the Deathless along with the other Choice of Games titles on Steam that I own, but it’s taking me a while to finish them and I just finished reading Three Parts Dead, and besides, it’s going to be a new year, so that calls for an extra special review of something I really enjoy.

Choice of the Deathless was written by Max Gladstone and hosted by Choice of Games, a company that specializes in creating entirely text-based interactive fiction games. At first, I was skeptical that I would actually enjoy these games, as they have neither music nor graphics and rely entirely on text to captivate the reader/player. In that respect, they’re much closer to a digitized book than something like The Yawhg or Vlad the Impaler.

As usual, I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that voice inside me that thinks I won’t enjoy something when said thing is right up my alley.

Choice of the Deathless is a “necromantic legal thriller” where you play as the newest member of Varkath, Nebuchadnezzar and Stone, a law firm that deals with demons, rogue magic users, and contracts of that nature. Is it your dream to make partner or do you just want to pay off your student loans? Do you want to do some good in the world or are you looking out for #1?

Since this game is literally all about the story, I won’t say much about it. The writing is top notch. The world is fascinating, and you essentially get to lawyer your enemies to death with the right combination of stats. I wouldn’t say the story has very many twists to it, but in all honesty it doesn’t really need to be twisty. One thing Max Gladstone really excelled at is taking something as swamped with jargon as being a lawyer and turning it into something awesome. Negotiating an employment contract might not sound like a lot of fun, but negotiating an employment contact for a demon who takes the form of a giant praying mantis? Hells yes!

Choice of the Deathless is also (if the names of the characters are any indication) one of the more diverse games I’ve played. Your coworkers are named Ngabe, Chen, and Vega respectively. One of the partners (Nebuchadnezzar) is unambiguously described as black. Although you can only choose two genders, you can have a romance with any of the four options regardless of gender (basically everyone is bi), and you can also choose not to romance anyone. (I should note here that most, if not all, games from Choice of Games have same-sex romance options.)

Many ignorant Steam users reviews of this game talk about how your choices don’t seem to matter, and it’s true in the sense that the story plays out the same way regardless of your choices. Choice of the Deathless is more about shaping who you are as a character and your relationships to the other characters than plot altering decisions like in, say, Mass Effect. I’v played as a lesbian craftswoman who was also a smooth talker and a gay physically oriented character who liked to solve problems with his fists., Both of these characters had different relationships with the other characters and different endgame goals.

If I had any criticisms to level at this game one would be that it’s too short and I wanted more, and the other is that it’s a shame there were no graphics in it because this world is jusit begging for a comic book adaptation. It’s an incredibly well-written tale that will keep you busy trying to get all the achievements, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of urban fantasy, especially if you also like legal thrillers. Also you really can’t beat that price, it’s a fraction of the cost of most games I bu,y, and I usually buy games for under ten bucks nowadays.

The Eldermaid is Now Available!

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My very first novel, The Eldermaid, is now available for purchase via the Createspace store and on Kindle.

Purchase the paperback.

Purchase on Kindle.

Once, it is said, the Powers—the five deities who rule over Love, War, Knowledge, Nature, and Death—walked the land.

But now They are gone, entrusting the guardianship of the world to the many spirits that live in it. These spirits of flame and sea, of tree and metal and storm form bonds with chosen humans, strengthening humanity’s ties with the land.

In this world, bereft of the Powers that created it, a young girl bonds with a spirit of the elder tree. All is not right with the world, however; and it will be up to these two companions to survive an invisible war of conflicting ideologies in which politics, religion, love, and jealousy are major players.

The Eldermaid is a coming-of-age tale about friendship, political wrangling, religion, absent deities, strange spirit companions, and badass queer ladies.

Includes the bonus story “The Genesis of House Hilluck”.

The Eldermaid was a NaNoWriMo 2012 winner.

Please feel free to pass this around to whomever might be interested.