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28 November 2015 @ 09:11 pm
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone  
Someone must have recommended the novels (of which this is the first) to me at some point because I can't imagine I'd have picked them up on spec anywhere. I've no idea who or why, though whoever it was has my thanks. I really enjoyed this.

Tara Abernathy is a junior craftswoman (read wizard) in a world that is only just recovering from a war between gods and wizards, which the wizards appear to have won. There are very few gods left. Mostly, it would seem, those who kept out of the whole thing. Kos Everburning is one of these and he's focused primarily on providing power and protection to his city of Alt Coulomb and mourning his dead lover, who headed out to the wars and didn't come back. She is less mourned by the citizens of Alt Coulomb who recall her Gargoyle servants with fear and hatred. Only now Kos is dead. Tara and her mentor, Elayne Kevarian have been asked to attempt a resurrection but, in the course of this, it becomes clear that not only is Kos dead, but that he was murdered.

I'm always impressed with novels that manage to set up a fantasy world and then manage to set a coherent and interesting mystery story within it. It takes the Urban Fantasy novel (which seems to love the detective trope) one step further but that step seems to widen the scope allowing rather different stories. I'm also a sucker for world-building and I loved this fantasy world where the gods are explicitly just incredibly powerful beings and, more than that, in which magic runs on tightly legalistic contracts and where the showmanship of the courtroom, where a powerful lawyer may be able to manipulate words to change the view of a case is replaced by magical duels where a powerful craftsperson may do the same thing.

Obviously the risk in setting a murder mystery in an entirely imaginary world (though this one does have some very loose parallels to ours) is that the reader may feel cheated from puzzling out the solution for themselves because the laws of reality were never adequately explained to them. There is a touch of that here, characters are revealed to have skills and natures that the reader did not know were possible. However most of these are hinted at through the book, if one is paying attention, and you could argue that the reader's own awareness of their partial understanding of the rules should make them more open to picking up on the hints that are dropped. In the end to be honest, the whodunit and how is not so much of a surprise, the reveal is how our heroes manage to snatch victory from the jaws of apparent defeat.

Still it's an impressive novel that matches two genres I love (detective fiction and detailed world building) and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/179999.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on November 30th, 2015 02:46 am (UTC)
The Craft Sequence
I'm not sure if it was me who recommended these, but it could have been. Not only do I agree with you about the first of these, I can recommend the others so far in the sequence. Warning: the most recent one takes place earlier in the timeline than the others and in fact shows a fair amount of things in detail which are alluded to in the other books. I'd actually categorise these as fantasy thriller rather than fantasy detective, particularly after the first one. But, definitely worth following, I think.

Two Serpents Rise
Full Fathom Five
Last First Snow

These are definitely novels set in a shared world rather than a series. There's a moderate amount of overlapping characters, but the viewpoint characters and location shift around a lot.
louisedennislouisedennis on November 30th, 2015 07:41 pm (UTC)
Re: The Craft Sequence
I've put the next one on my wish list. I got the impression, looking at the blurbs, that these were probably shared world rather than a series. I liked the characters in this, but I can see it would have been potentially constraining to keep using them.

You could be right about the thriller thing, I tend to expect large and powerful organisations to be more foregrounded in a thriller, but the stakes in this one were clearly at the city-wide level.