Book Review: Three Parts Dead


From Goodreads:

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.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

“An author’s ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.” — Brandon Sanderson

Three Parts dead could have benefitted from a bit more reader understanding of the magic system, before it was used to solve all of the problems. I spent large parts of the book being intrigued by the magic, but never quite getting enough explanation of how it works, and what it really can and cannot do, to satisfy me. I’m fine with vague magic not explained to the reader when it’s not used for many of the various plot events, such as in The Lord of the Rings, or A Song of Ice and Fire. But here, the Craft, as it is called, is one of the only tools the main characters use for solving their problems.

That’s not to say it’s a bad magic system, though. It seems, from the hurried glimpses we caught of it, to be internally consistent and intricately cool. I’m fully expecting to learn more about it in the future volumes in the series, and I hope that, once the rules are more defined, I will even come to enjoy the system. I just felt like the book wasn’t long enough for all the complexity we were supposed to get from it.

The plot is really cool, and I enjoyed how it was handled, with lots of twists and turns and unexpected happenings. And it felt very much like the bad guys were moving during the book, instead of having their plans set before the book began. This is a feeling that I don’t get from a lot of other books. There are several times where a scene happens, and we think it’s the climax of some kind of plot, but instead, turns out just to be another machination… I found this sense really cool, even though I can’t describe it properly. Perhaps the best description I can give is that the reaction scenes were also action scenes.

The characters in the book are an incredibly diverse cast of interesting people, not only in their physical makeup, but also their professions. Our main character is a disgraced student of the Craft school, trying to get a job with an imperious boss who is immortal. Her encounters include her old school teacher, a shape-shifting gargoyle, a bumbling underpriest with a smoking problem, a vampire, and a street-girl always searching for her next high—which she gets by either turning into an extension of the justice system of the city or having a vampire drink her blood.

The characters are incredible. The world-building is off the charts, and the magic system has so many cool intricacies.

I just felt like it was too much for the few pages the story fit into. This is one problem I’m really hoping will be fixed as we go along, now that we’ve had an introduction to the world, and I’m really excited about the later books.

The plot itself is really cool, and the climax was understandable, which surprised me in a good way. Everything is explained really well, though many of the events that happened I did not know were possible until they happened, giving it a slight Deus Ex Machina feel in places. Despite that, it had enough twists and turns to keep me suitably engaged, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In summary, Three Parts Dead is too short, and tries to cram too much really cool worldbuilding, characters, and intricate magic into its pages, but the parts that do come through are brilliantly done, and I’m excited to get more in this world in the reminder of the books, which I am going to be starting this afternoon. With the fourth book coming out soon after this review, now’s a great time to catch up on this series, and I give the first book a solid four of five stars for its really cool ending.

Max Gladstone’s website.



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