Two Serpents Rise – Max Gladstone

About the Book

The new novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world ofThree Parts Dead

Shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc — casual gambler and professional risk manager — to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father — the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists — has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire… and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

352 pages (Hardcover)
Published on October 29, 2013
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

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


(Before I start my review I have to apologize. I got this ARC months ago and lost it for the longest time. Turns out I have a little two-year-old thief living in the house who hid this ARC, and a bunch of others, at the bottom of her toybox.)

Two Serpents Rise is the second book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence series. If you haven’t read this series yet, you might want to fix that. One thing I can say before I say anything else is that Gladstone writes one hell of a unique, fascinating world and his books are full of thought provoking layers.

Two Serpents Rise tells the story of Caleb, a risk management analyst for Red King Consolidated. His unique position gives readers a fantastic view of all the things that makes Two Serpents Rise so unique. The fact that Gladstone focuses on a new character in this installment really allows him to explore a lot of world building that he probably wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Caleb finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being in the center of the conflict that is the focus of the book. He has ties to the past, but also ties to the present. His internal debate due to this, and his struggle with finding his place in relation to everything, is nothing short of captivating. Gladstone shows his personal struggles well, and in a way that readers will find him easy to sympathize with. Caleb is one of those characters that has that perfect mixture of charisma and inner conflict that makes him absolutely real, vibrant, and addicting to readers.

The main focus of the plot is on demons in the city’s water supply. With a desert local, water is important. This also allows Gladstone to really explore his world in ways that he probably wouldn’t have been able to if he’d take the plot or book any other direction. The fact is it’s the world that keeps me hooked to this series. I am constantly amazed by how much intricate world building Gladstone can easily shove into one book. Two Serpents Rise deals with a lot, like human sacrifice, the war between the gods and the powerful Craftsmen, the Red King, who is more like a business owner than anything else, as well as local culture. Gladstone leaves nothing out.

Through Gladstone’s world building and various cultural explorations, readers will soon start to realize that he has an interesting spin on things, which is another reason why Two Serpents Rise worked so well. Things aren’t black and white. The good guys aren’t always so good and the bad guys aren’t always so bad. When lawyers and large corporations are so often shown in dark light, Gladstone shows how vital they can be to keeping order and their important role in society in general. It’s an unexpected perspective and one that I appreciated. It’s nice when an author is willing to take something that is so easy to show as negative, and put it in a positive light instead.

And that’s how much of the book was. There’s some justification behind human sacrifice, which is unexpected, but Gladstone makes it work. He explores a lot about contracts, and how important these binding ties can be. Caleb has to navigate through this complex world, with one foot in the past and one in the present, and readers really get a feel for how torn he is, and how torn so many of the people he interacts with are.

So far both books in these series seem to be pretty self contained, but it is pretty easy to see how it all ties together and I think more of the complexities that Gladstone has meticulously woven through the first two installments will make the next books he writes that much more powerful. He’s built himself an incredible foundation and he’s left enough open threads, and explored threads, to honestly be able to take this series anywhere.

Gladstone is a hell of an author, and this series seriously needs a wider readership than it currently has. For world building, he’s second to none. His plot is fast paced and interesting. His characters are vibrant and well realized. The main conflict is so riddled with past and present baggage, it is hard to think of it as anything but fascinating. In all honesty, Two Serpents Rise is one of those books that I want to read again and again just to make sure I have absorbed it all. It worked for me. On nearly every level, this book worked. Home run. Hit the ball out of the park. Threw the…. whatever… in the end zone thingie. Touchdown. Slam dunk. Etc. You get it.

While it isn’t necessary to read Three Parts Dead first, you might want to. It establishes the world nicely and will probably make much of what you read about in Two Serpents Rise a little less confusing.

Final thought: Bravo, Max. You wrote one hell of a book, and you’ve created one hell of a world.


5/5 stars

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