Confession: I actually read this book months ago and forgot to write a review. It’s been sitting in my “review” pile for ages, so I decided I’d better review it before I forget about it entirely, especially now that the fourth and fifth books are out.
On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order. Her creations aren’t fully sentient, but accept offerings from Craftsmen and Craftswomen looking to protect their investments in the Old World, where true deities still hold sway. However, when she’s gravely injured trying to save a friend’s dying idol, she’s sidelined and given a less stressful position in the priesthood, but when she starts digging into the cause of the idol’s death, she uncovers a conspiracy of secrecy and silence that will break her if she can’t break it first.
Despite taking forever to write this review, I really enjoyed this book, though I think Two Serpents Rise is still my favourite. Both new characters as well as some familiar faces from the previous books are present and accounted for (including one of my favourite characters from Two Serpents Rise), and the story is told through the eyes of a few characters, not only Kai but Izza, a street urchin, and Cat (from the first book) who shows up on the island one day, though her reason for being there is suspect.
The world-building is intriguing as always. Max Gladstone has a gift for taking things like bankruptcy and risk management and adding demons and dead deities to the mix. Kavekana’s particular hat is investing via custom made deities. Resurrection cults are risky, for instance, so clients are advised to switch to grain-focused fertility, which is much more dependable. Oh, and actual deities aren’t allowed on the island–it’s bad for business. It’s just a really interesting way to approach topics that would normally be uninteresting or completely beyond the average person’s understanding.
The series continues to include more diverse characters (although, it is kind of sad that I find inclusion surprising). Kai is trans and possibly East Asian (judging by the cover) and Izza is black. There’s also an appearance by a certain Quechal (that is, Mexican) lesbian (who is such a badass in this book). In a genre so overwhelmingly populated by dycishet white people, the Craft Sequence is refreshing in its portrayal of many diverse characters, and it’s only been getting better over time. I’ve said before that many male authors just can’t do women right, but Max Gladstone consistently gives us many awesome, diverse women.
If I could name one thing I didn’t like about this book, it’s that it was a bit slow to get going. It took me ages to get past chapter eight or so because the characters were just kind of wandering around, getting into trouble. Like the other books, Gladstone doesn’t explain how everything fits together until the final few chapters, so if you’re the sort of reader who wants everything explained to you right then you’re going to have to wait a long time to get your answers. There’s a part of me that likes the whole “sink or swim” way of immersing you in the world, and there’s a part of me that absolutely loathes not knowing how things work. It’s well worth the wait though, trust me.
As for triggery things, Kai experiences nightmares of being tied down in a hospital-like environment and being injected. The way she is treated by her coworkers and boss (that she’s nuts and needs to calm down) reminded me of the way society treats those with mental illnesses and disabilities, as well as how women aren’t taken seriously and seen as “hysterical” when they try and express themselves. Like in the first book, Cat is still struggling with addiction (although she seems to be in a much better place than she was).
Overall, I really like this book, I love this series, I want the fourth book to be in stock in paperback on Amazon now, and I can’t wait to read the rest (the synopsis for the fifth book is wild, just saying). This is one series that just keeps getting better with each installment.