Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead is the first book of the Craft Sequence. The internal chronology, which follows the titles (Last First Snow, Two Serpents Rise, Three Parts Dead…) is different from the publication order. Gladstone is quite apologetic about it. According to fellow readers, it’s okay to read the books in publication order, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Three Parts Dead was a very unusual read, but I enjoyed it a lot, especially as I buddy-read it with Tam. We’ll check out his thoughts on the book in a bit.

The story could be summed up as follows: in a post-industrial universe, where lawyers are necromancers who draw their power from the stars and worship is a contractual relationship, a God is dead. Tara Abernathy, a newcomer in a necromantic firm, must find out what happened and how to resuscitate Him before His city collapses.

Gladstone enjoys playing with contrasts. The plot often follows a familiar whodunit and legal drama structure, but the setting is unique and a bit unsettling at first. The magic system, the Craft, has both an elemental vibe and a corporate component. At no point did I feel that the concepts were clashing; Gladstone is pretty good at his craft (hehe) and blends them to create a seamless and surrealistic world.

I have a soft spot for resourceful characters, so the book was perfect for me. The main lead, Tara, is a talented young Craftswoman with a sound moral compass. The characters cast also features her mentor, a master Craftswoman who already dealt with a divine death in the past, a chain-smoking young priest, traumatised by the death of his God, and a junkie working for the law.

The “murder mystery” aspect of the book gives it a suspenseful feel. I must admit that I was a bit lost at the beginning of the story, but it quickly became a page-turner. The pacing is also helped by the tone: I was expecting a darker, heavier tone but it wasn’t the case.

The story is self-contained, but Gladstone gave us a glimpse of a much larger world, and I would love to discover more of it.

If you are looking for a refreshingly unique reading experience, I would recommend you give Three Parts Dead a try.

Tam’s Postscript
As Sharade mentioned earlier, we did a buddy read of Three Parts Dead, and I thought I’d add a few comments of my own. I loved this book. Gladstone takes elements of classical fantasy and mashes them into an incredible new world. He takes fantasy elements like mystical creatures, gods, and magic, then he throws in business and technology to create a post-industrial world heavily influenced by fantastical elements. Gladstone has made a phenomenal world with great characters, and an interesting story. I really loved this book, and I’m sure Sharade and I will buddy read the rest of the series is the not too distant future. I second Sharade’s recommendation, Three Parts Dead is an amazing read, and very unique.

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