Three Parts Dead

Max Gladstone
Three Parts Dead Cover

Three Parts Dead


Three Parts Dead is a unique tale that combines religion, magic and law in a world so very different from our own. It begins with the murder of a judge, the death of a god and Tara Abernathy, a skilled young Craftswoman, unceremoniously graduated from the Hidden Schools and ejected from their skybound walls. With no other choice left to her, Tara returns to her quiet farming village, but in an effort to help the villagers after a brutal attack, reveals her Craft and incurs their wrath. What did she expect would happen when she raises the dead? Fortunately, she is saved by Ms. Kevarian, a senior lawyer at Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao who offers Tara a job as her associate.

Gladstone casually throws the reader into this strange world. Tara nonchalantly raising the dead, the inconvenience of a dead god within the walls of Alt Coloumb. Ms. Kevarian's unusual interview process. The carefree rescue by vampire pirates. This makes it sound all very comedic, but in fact, the story is woven together and the mysteries teased out so intricately that it was hard not to keep reading straight through to unravel all there is to know about Alt Coloumb, Craft, the gods, The Hidden Schools and everything in between.

One of the most fascinating bits of lore building is the religion, and the gods themselves. The main god of interest is Kos Everburning, who happens to be dead. The religious aspect is extremely practical in this story in that prayer actually does serve a purpose. The gods are fuelled by worship and sacrifice, but they are not simply all powerful beings sitting on some Olympic throne. The ones in question actually are benevolent and willingly give of their power back to the people in pragmatic ways. From steam pipes heated with Kos's own fire, to bolstering city defences. Though you never get to meet and know the gods, you do learn how much they love and care for their people.

Secondly, there is the Craft. Where the gods use their own magic, certain men and women are gifted with the ability to channel the power of the earth and stars. Tara and Ms. Kevarian use these abilities in their attempt to find out how Kos Everburning died, his connection to the judge and more.

Initially, Tara appears rather immature in her use of Craft, though not in her skills as a lawyer. She is just recently graduated from The Hidden Schools, though the circumstances of her graduation are unusual. For her to be taken on by such a renown law firm implies that there is far more to her and when placed in the right environment, her expertise becomes quite evident. While there are a lot of legalities to deal with, it is not overwhelming or confusing and I loved the way Craft was ingrained into the process. Think of a law firm like Angel's Wolfram and Hart, only with far more history and a solid framework and magical processes and fantastic depositions that take place on the astral plane.

Tara is surrounded by several other interesting characters, including a junkie, a gargoyle and a pirate captain and the novice priest who was present when Kos died. Each character seems to be created to fit into a certain mould, but Gladstone subtly and pleasantly surprises. Similarly, the setting does not fall into anything that can be pinned down. The fashion, locations and language make Alt Coloumb seem like a city we might easily recognize, yet there is a grandiose and profound feel to the stone buildings, a Victorian element to the horse drawn carriages and travel by pirate ship. I am so very intrigued by this world and am looking forward to further adventures within it.