Saturday, February 09, 2013

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Note: I read this about four months ago, so you may notice a certain lack of specificity below. In case it doesn't come through, I really enjoyed this book when I read it, and put it aside to "do it right." And we all know which road good intentions lead to, right?

The fantasy genre is not generally known as being friendly to legal thrillers, but Three Parts Dead has as much Scott Turow in its DNA as it does J.R.R. Tolkien -- and that's much to its advantage. Max Gladstone's heroine Tara isn't a lawyer, exactly -- she's a very young necromancer, just expelled precipitously from the Hidden Schools and newly installed at the internationally renowned firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao -- but she's thrown into the deep end of complicated deals and maneuverings just as quickly as her legal equivalent.

The god Kos has just died, and his city of Alt Coulumb doesn't know yet -- and it's up to Tara (and even more so her boss Elayne Kevarian) to untangle the power transfers and contracts that led to his death and to bring him back before Alt Coulumb falls apart without him. But they certainly don't work for free -- internationally renowned firms never do. And there are forces that don't want to see Kos resurrected -- the ones who forced him into the divine equivalent of bankruptcy in the first place, ready to continue their assault through methods legal, necromantic and even more direct. As it happens, the opposing counsel -- or the closest equivalent in Three Parts Dead -- is Professor Denovo of the Hidden Schools, who had a very direct hand in Tara's so-abrupt end of her studies there.

The only real ally Tara has in Alt Coulumb is Abelard, the chain-smoking priest who witnessed Kos's death (and is consequently having his own crisis of faith). And magic has real consequences and dangers in Gladstone's intricately-invented world; failing to resurrect Kos would have severe consequences for both of them -- fatal, or worse.

Three Parts Dead is a quick-moving, smart fantasy novel with a tough, believable heroine -- it sets out to do a lot, and does all of it well. I hope to see more stories of Tara's necromantic engagements, and to learn more about this world -- or just to see what Gladstone writes next.

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