Book Review – Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

The blurb declaims:

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.

I liked the world building and the magic system in the book, although I wish the author had gone into more depth – I wanted to spend more time in the world and felt like I only skimmed the surface.  I think part of this was because none of the points of view were ordinary people.

I noticed an unusual structure in this book – the main character is portrayed sympathetically but the book also tells you how the things the character does (e.g. raising zombies) are perceived as frightening or evil by other people.  This gives you a feeling of dissonance, as the main character is portrayed as a good guy but is perceived as a bad guy.  This would be more expected if the book was something like a reverse fairy tale, where the point is to understand why a mad scientist or wicked witch would do what they do, but in this type of book it serves to make the world more complex.

The blurb makes the book sound like it’s urban fantasy or dark fantasy, but it ends up being a lot more of a murder mystery, which was an interesting deviation.

Something I really liked about the book was the the female characters.  The author hasn’t just made the main character a woman but made most of the main characters women, passed the Bechdel test, made the default pronoun “she” and giving the female characters the most agency.  I think this is a great example of a male writer trying to address gender imbalance in genre books – obviously a female writer would be better, but it’s a good first step.

Basically the author seems to have gone to great lengths to defy expectations and convention.  My only criticism is that I’d like more depth, but I assume that will come with the rest of the series.