Three Parts Dead – Max Gladstone

About the book

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.


336 pages (hardcover)
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

You may purchase this book by clicking on the following links: Three Parts Dead, Three Parts Dead – kindle


Three Parts Dead is not what I expected. The title, at first glance, made me think of some vampire/zombie novel. It’s not that. In fact, Three Parts Dead is a wonderful mix of fantasy, steampunk, and complex mystery with a nice dose of humor added in for good measure.

The first thing that readers will probably notice about Gladstone’s world is how incredibly unique and complex it is. Truthfully, the world is a little bit steampunk and a little bit fantasy. Gladstone really brings the world to life with his fluid prose. He leaves nothing out, from complex social nuances to descriptions of buildings and the magic that infuses them. Mixed with all of this is a rich history that adds a lot of flavor and color to the world itself. In fact, it can be said that perhaps the world is the crowning achievement of Three Parts Dead.

On the flip side, the complex world, though vibrant, might overwhelm some readers at the start. There is a lot to understand, and things are so different than almost any other novel, that there’s almost no frame of reference. Readers will easily understand the nuances, and be able to easily visualize what Gladstone describes, but it might take a little time and effort on the reader’s part until they get comfortable in Gladstone’s groove.

Three Parts Dead focuses on a few primary characters, and thus a few perspectives. Each of the primary characters are three dimensional and believable. Gladstone doesn’t overstate anyone’s perfections or strengths. He balances them nicely with flaws. For example, at the start of the book Tara makes a pretty stupid decision which puts herself in very real danger. While situations like this doesn’t fill the book, Gladstone keeps very real situations sprinkled throughout the book and they really tend to add some nice realism and three dimensionality to the characters. I must give Gladstone some props for creating a female lead of color. Though that’s alluded to, it’s refreshing to see an author not only step out of normal fantasy bounds with his worldbuilding, but also his characters.

The mystery deserves some attention. I’m rarely wowed with mysteries in novels. Sure, they are fun, but they are all pretty much the same. However, due to the world that Gladstone builds, and the cultures he deals with, there is absolutely nothing normal or predictable about the case of the god Kos. It’s actually quite refreshing how the unique world seems to make everything it touches so much more vivid and interesting.

While there is a lot in Three Parts Dead that will scratch any fantasy lover’s itch (gods, magic, religion, etc.), Gladstone manages to keep these deeper, more serious themes very fresh and almost lighthearted with a nice dose of humor. In fact, the humor itself, and some of the religious dealings, reminded me a little of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. Gladstone’s interconnectivity between gods and their believers is both humorous on some accounts, but also rather profound as it deals with the interconnected roles of believers and deities. In a city where the power of gods run such things as elevators, and protects the city, the issues between citizens and gods are even more profound and impactful.

Three Parts Dead is pretty brilliant. Gladstone creates a wonderfully unique world and brings it to life with his flowing, descriptive prose. Though it might be a little overwhelming at first, once readers get used to it they will find themselves entranced by believable characters and a plot that is just as unique as the world it takes place in. Gladstone fills Three Parts Dead with some wonderful humor which serves to highlight some deeper themes couched in the plot itself and will surely dazzle anyone looking for a unique speculative fiction book to add to their collection.

I can’t wait to see what Gladstone comes up with next.


4/5 stars

One Responses

  • Thanks for the review, this will probably be the next book I read.

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