Fair warning here – this is my first ever book review so I apologize for any mistakes/omissions.
When I first saw the cover art and blurb for Three Parts Dead I was immediately intrigued by the premise. I’ve read my fair share of fantasy novels (okay maybe a bit more than my fair share) but I don’t think I’ve ever read one that could be defined as a fantasy/legal thriller. I’ve always loved fantasy for the interesting worlds and stories it allows authors to create – not to mention the magic and battles! I also love a good courtroom scene, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and the movie A Few Good Men come to mind here. A book that promises to deliver a combination of both? Sign me up!
Here’s the blurb:
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.
Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.
The author managed to hook me into the story right away when the book started with the main protagonist falling from the sky into the middle of the dessert, landing injured and bloody. It raised several interesting questions: Where did she fall from? Was she fleeing some sort of conflict? How did she survive? We gradually learn these answers over the course of the novel as Tara gets drawn into the mystery surrounding the death of a god.
One aspect of this novel I enjoyed was how gods and magic are handled: gods receive their power from worship (which is not that uncommon in fantasy) but their power is also treated similar to investing where the church will sign various contracts providing and receiving power from other parties in the hopes of increasing the strength of the god. There is a danger to this though – if a god’s contracts are called upon and he has to give out more power than he can handle this will result in death.Having said that I would have liked to dig a little bit deeper into the mechanics of human magic. Maybe having the main character learn some new techniques from her mentor or something along those lines would have given the readers a better feel for it.
I felt that the pacing of the novel for the most part was fairly good but it did seem to slow down a bit during the middle section of the book before picking back up again for an exciting conclusion.
The main antagonist was easy to thoroughly hate but he isn’t just evil for the sake of being evil. This is a pitfall fantasy novels often run into – especially if you venture into Y.A or self-published territory as I occasionally do. The antagonist does have his own motives and goals that feel realistic in this world but he is still a loathsome individual that I love to hate and dearly wanted to see get his comeuppance.
In terms of the legal side of the story it did certainly revolve a lot around contracts and the legal ramifications surrounding the Kos’s death with Tara representing the church of Kos. As for courtroom scenes boy did Three Parts Dead ever deliver one to remember. I won’t say any more though, I don’t want to spoil anything.
Speaking of the setting, I’ve had a very tough time trying to decide how exactly to define this book. At first glance I thought this was firmly in urban fantasy territory. Just look at the cover art and you can see a city with streetlights, billboards and the protagonist wearing a suit. The novel also features vampires and other creatures you would expect to come across in urban fantasy. However, this is set in an original world with technology that’s slightly steam punk-esque despite the lack of guns. We’re left with enough hints of a much wider world out there that I’m looking forward to exploring this setting Max Gladstone has created further.
The sequel is definitely a novel I’m looking forward to although I’m a bit disappointed that it appears to be focusing on new characters as opposed to the ones we’ve gotten to know already in Three Parts Dead.
Overall rating: 8.25/10