[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.