Three Parts Dead - Max Gladstone

I first came across this series back in 2014 when Max Gladstone was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is traditionally given out at the same time as the Hugos - in recent years, it's been practice that publishers provide at least extracts of the nominated works for these awards so people can read them before voting and that year they very kindly provided ebooks of Three Parts Dead and the next book in the series, Two Serpents Rise. At the time, I went through those books like a dose of salts and also recommended them to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen...

 

In total, there are 5 books in what Gladstone calls the Craft Sequence (with the final one, Four Roads Cross, just coming out), and I figured I ought to get a move on and at least try to catch up with these, so I bought the whole set of the first 4 in paperback as an early birthday present for myself. The whole series starts off as more of a shared universe thing, where it looks like the first three books feature stories going on at the same time in different places, so a throwaway reference to a character might preface their playing a more significant role in a later volume, while the final two look like they'll be a more enjoyable read if you've read the first three. The gods in the second and fourth book are also much more closely aligned to Mesoamerican deities, which brings an additional level of interest to the writing for me. 

 

The overall setting is a world where humanity has learned how to harness powers and can now destroy, or at least challenge, deities - in the city of Alt Coulomb, one of those deities was killed and then resurrected as a lesser version of herself, used to literally police the behaviour of its citizens. The other god, Kos Everburning, has suddenly disappeared and nobody knows what is going on. Into that situation come the representatives of a firm whose job it is to figure out how Kos died and who was responsible, as well as what exactly should happen next for the city itself. The power of the god in question had been dwindling for a while for no apparent reason and it's in search of an explanation that our protagonist (Tara) finds herself plunged into a murder plot and the machinations of people who want to keep power for themselves. 

 

Oh, and there's gargoyles, did I mention that? They're the former servants of the god who died, now exiled from the city but one of their number has been accused of murdering a judge. Tara herself has a bit of a chequered past, a small-town girl made good who had rebelled against being used by a more powerful Craftsman to help him bolster his own position, only to find that said Craftsman is now her opponent. There's a lot going on in this book, which stands up well to re-reading in preparation for going on to the shiny new paperbacks that are currently calling me. 

 

Anyway, if anyone's looking for a fantasy series that is a) complete, and b) not swords and elves, then Three Parts Dead might be the ideal entry into a different kind of world.