Monday, June 12, 2017

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Dark days have fallen on the city of Alt Coulumb.  Kos, the Fire God who keeps the city alive, has died.  An influential law firm is called upon to figure out what killed him and what can be done going forward.  Elayne Kevarian is the law partner sent to head up the case.  She chooses Tara Abernathy as her associate.  This will be Tara's first case but Kevarian has high hopes for her although her past is shaky.  Tara was expelled from the Hidden Schools where all Craftsmen are trained.   She dared to go up against a powerful professor there and expose his corruption but as often happens when novice goes against entrenched power, she lost.

How did Kos die?  It appears that too much power was drained from him.  As with most gods, Kos was involved in a series of contracts selling off his excess power.  Elayne and Tara must go through all his contracts and determine if something was wrong in one of them and if they underlie his death.  To do so, they must draw on allies.  Abelard is a young priest who was the one on duty when Kos died and who discovered it.  He is in the service of the Cardinal and the entire religious hierarachy.  Another ally is the vampire pirate who brings them to the city and who seems to have knowledge of the various contracts that Kos was involved in.

But there are enemies as well.  Cat is part of Justice, the group that sees that all is well in the city and which punishes wrongdoers.  They don't trust Tara and her investigation.  Then there are the gargoyles who believe both Justice and Tara are their enemies.  They serve a goddess who used to rule in Alt Columb but who disappeared eons ago.  Most deadly is the opposing counsel in the court case.  It turns out to be Professor Denovo who is the professor Tara battled in academia only to be bested by him.  The stakes this time are much higher.  Can she prevail?

This is the first novel in the Craft series and Max Gladstone's debut novel.  It shakes up fantasy by borrowing from several genres and adding in new twists such as the entire legal overlay, the concept of gods that can die and the explanation for creatures such as gargoyles and vampires. There are alliances and betrayals and one can never be quite sure what is happening.   It is a complex world without being overwhelming and the many layers provide Gladstone with lots of room for surprising twists and turns.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

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