Three Parts Dead read-along part 1

Three Parts DeadApologies to fellow read-along bloggers! I’m a bit late with the first post after having to work on an unexpectedly long assignment for the course I’m doing. But hey, I managed to finish this post before going to sleep, so I call that a win 😀

For those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, this is my first post for the read-along of Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone. Like my previous urban fantasy read-alongs (the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch and The Inheritance Cycle by N.K. Jemisin), this one looks like it’s going to be a great read with fascinating, quirky worldbuilding and complex characters.

If you’d like to follow the read-along or participate, you’ll find the schedule here. Part one only covers the first 100 words or so (the Prologue to the end of Chapter 8 [Edit: that should be the end of Chapter 7]), so you can catch up easily. However, this post will contain spoilers for those chapters; you’ve been warned!

Our host for this part is Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog, and I’m going to tackle her questions without further ado:

[Edit: So I stupidly misread the schedule and read all the way to the end of Chapter 8 when I should have stopped at Chapter 7. As a result, this post also includes comments about Chapter 8. Apologies if I’ve spoilt anything for you!]

1. Max Gladstone isn’t holding any hands here, we’re dropped straight into the world (which is a bit ironic given the start – but I’ll get to that) and expected to pick up and run with it.  Are you enjoying the style and, more to the point,  what ‘reveals’ have been the most surprising for you so far?

This kind of style might mean I have to work a bit harder as a reader, but I like it. Getting all the necessary worldbuilidng in a nice, clear infodump can be great when that infodump happens to be an awesome story in itself, but most of the time it’s more like pausing to read a Wikipedia article. So yeah, I like the way Gladstone is building his world as the story develops. I also find it very intriguing – the world is unfolding much like the mystery in the plot, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Surprises? Quite a few!

  • technician monks (interesting combo of engineering and religion)
  • Vampires. Nothing new, obviously, but I didn’t expect to encounter them here. I admit I was a wee bit annoyed when I realised there were vampires, since they’ve become such a cliché, but so far Gladstone has proven himself with great worldbuilding, so I trust him.
  • A yellow smiley face on a coffee mug. Yeah, ok, I don’t know what to do about this one. It really throws me off
  • Smoking as an act of spiritual devotion to a fire god. Which actually makes a lot of sense. I also loved the contrast in the first scene of Abelard doing all his holy monk duties and then lighting a cigarette.
  • Tara’s skills in forensic pathology – very impressive!
  • Abelard being unable to understand the concept of a newspaper. This really says a lot about Alt Coulumb and how it relates to the rest of the world. Some excellent worldbuilding there.
  • Cat being Justice and using her power to awesome effect at the end of chapter eight. Not only does it lend an interesting dynamic to her character (who I’d sort of dismissed as a useful but hopeless junkie), it also makes the Justice more of a grey area (after I’d mostly dismissed them as being authoritarian and therefore probably evil).

2. At the start of the book Tara graduates and is cast out of school (literally from a great height) simultaneously – any ideas about why that might be?

Well, her successful attempt to examine Cabot’s body shows that she’s got a strong sense of curiosity and is not afraid to take initiative. That’s also demonstrated by the way she seems to have left home to study at the Hidden Schools, despite the fact that the people around her were a lot more parochial. So my first guess is that she studied and/or experimented with something that the Schools did not approve of. Presumably she was successful, or Ms Kevarian would not have hired her. However, there’s clearly something very dodgy or at least unethical about what Tara did, based on the circumstances of her graduation and the firm’s reluctance to hire her without a probation period.

It might have something to do with controlling other people. She’s skilled at bringing people back from the dead. Then there’s a moment when she considers taking control of the bouncer, but decides not to when she thinks back on her graduation. Soon after, she’s quick to figure out that someone is controlling Raz. Skills like that would be both highly desirable and extremely controversial.

3. I’m always interested in the magical systems and how they work and the one here seems to almost be a ‘payback’ type of affair.  What are your thoughts about the magical system so far, we do have a dead deity after all, not to mention it appears that regular everyday people can access magic as well as deities. Discuss please (if only to enlighten my tiny brain!)

Gah, it’s after midnight and I’m not sure my brain has the power to enlighten anyone else’s! Also, magic systems aren’t my strong point, although this one certainly does intrigue me more than most. It’s very “lawyerish” 🙂 I don’t mean that in a bad way; if anything it makes the whole profession seem really cool in a way that is somehow more realistic than the flashy lawyer tactics you see in legal dramas. Craftswomen and men can negotiate with the fabric of the universe – or at least that’s my understanding. This allows them to do all sorts of mundane legal magic, but also gives them the power to kill and resurrect gods. In fact, it’s a way for humans to become god-like, with gods and humans separated by the level of their skills. I’m fascinated by the possibilities here.

What also intrigued me is that people use soulstuff for currency, and metal coins are the means of passing soulstuff around, but have little value in themselves. So if you made an excessive purchase or bargain, would you literally be selling your soul?

4. We’re only a third in but how are you feeling towards the characters so far. are you developing any favourites already, any sneaky suspicions of any of the characters or are you loving them all?

The only ones I’m suspicious of are Shale the gargoyle and Cardinal Gustave. Otherwise, I like all the characters so far, and I particularly like the fact that none of them feel like cliches. Abelard seemed to be a typically naïve young monk, until he grinned at the prospect of trawling through vampire bars in the Pleasure Quarter and hooked Tara up with Cat (how on earth do they know each other?). And as I mentioned in the first answer, I’m curious about Cat now that I know she’s also a Justice.

I like the way Tara seems to have risen above the circumstances of her birth, sometimes literally, like when Ms Kevarian is flying them over farms and village and Tara is thinking about how the people down there never saw much beyond their little homes. I think it’s also telling that after she falls from the Hidden Schools, she goes back to her backwater home, making her fall both literal and figurative. And then she is almost chased out with torches and pitchforks… She doesn’t seem to have too much to worry about though; she seems extremely competent and professional; I wish I was that skilled.

She reminds me a bit of Shara from City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – like Shara, Tara’s skill lies in her ability to think and study, and that makes her powerful and dangerous, rather than any physical prowess or traditional martial art. In fact, Shara might have been inspired by Tara.

And now let me get some sleep while I still can. I’ll go blog hopping and round up the links tomorrow. Or rather, later tomorrow 🙂

Blog Hop! Go see what everyone else had to say:

Heather – The Bastard Title
Susan  – Dab of Darkness


13 thoughts on “Three Parts Dead read-along part 1

  1. Yeah, I was really thrown with the vampires – don’t know why, this is UF after all – but I just hadn’t expected them for some reason.
    I like Abelard and I think I’m going to get on with that character okay – it seems like he’s going to be a different person off the job than he is on the job! Time will tell.
    What about the gargoyle and the face off thing – I was flumoxed with that i don’t mind admitting! My jaw dropped.
    And I like the idea of a sort of partnership between Abelard and Tara – they’re kind of working towards the same goals and yet coming at it from different perspectives.
    I’m looking forward to the next part – the first instalment was very unexpected in a lot of ways.

    • The vampires – I guess we weren’t expecting them because they’re more common in romantic urban fantasy or the sort with a stereotypically hot kick-ass woman on the cover. Not that Tara isn’t hot or kick-ass, but she certainly isn’t stereotypical.

      Oh yeah, the gargoyle face thing was great! And I was so chuffed for Tara when Ms Kevarian called it “brilliant”.

      I’m enjoying the relationship between Abelard and Tara as well, especially the different ways they think about Kos. Tara’s all business-like and academic about it, while Abelard was her to treat Kos with a more personal sense of respect.

      I’ve very keen to keep reading, although I’ve just noticed that I stupidly misread the schedule and jumped the gun by reading chapter 8 😦 I better put in some spoiler warnings. Sorry if I’ve spoilt anything for you!

      • If it helps, I did the same thing and read chapter 8 during the first week too. I was all going “ZOMG! Why did they pick that chapter to end on? That’s EVIL! I want to read on and I caaaaaan’t!” in my mind before I realised that I’d just read one chapter more than I was supposed to. ^_^;

  2. Pingback: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, readalong part 1 | Lynn's Book Blog

  3. Hooray for forensic pathology! And I was thrown by the fact that Abelard smokes as a way of showing his devotion! But maybe his faith or Kos the fire god keeps him cancer free.

    I too loved that the characters are multi-faceted, such as the priest Abelard knowing the ins and outs of the Pleasure Quarter.

    Passing around soulstuff seems so odd to me! Like where does it come from? And if you imbue a bit of coin with a tidbit of your soul and spend it, and then like 5 years later get that coin back in change from some random transaction, do you have the choice to reabsorb your soul tidbit?

    • Yeah, there’s a bit where Gustave or one of the other priests says something about how Kos normally protects his acolytes from the dangers of tobacco addiction, but of course he can’t do that at the moment, so maybe Abelard should cut down 🙂

      I guess the soulstuff is just part of your soul? Like a giving blood? Although I don’t know if it regenerates by itself.
      It doesn’t remain yours after you give it away though. When Tara pays the taxi driver she mentions that all trace of her identity fades from the soulstuff so that it just becomes pure energy.
      I do wonder how it’s measured though. Like how do you know how much is in a coin? Does each coin have a different “volume” and you just fill it up with the appropriate amount of soulstuff?

      By the way, my (additional) apologies for misreading the schedule and commenting on chapter 8! I hope I haven’t spoiled too much for you 😦

      • No problems! You aren’t the only on who read through Chapter 8 and included some bits in the discussion. If we do a read along for Book 2, I will make the discussion breaks clearer. And I don’t think you spoiled anything – too vague for me.

  4. I admit, the lawyerish sense to the magic was one of the things that really caught my eye when people discussed it. I really like learning more about the system, though I’d love to get a better handle on how the Craftspeople;s more advanced things work. We know from the first chapter that there’s still some kind of contract between the zombie villagers and where Tara gets the energy, but are we supposed to read that as taking a natural resource and transforming it or as something else?

    I love the way Tara and Abelard bounce off one another and Cat is definitely an intriguing character! I really liked that chapter. It’s a great way to build up more of the world and to show us a side of Abelard that we hadn’t seen before. I’m so intrigued!

    • Yeah, I definitely want to go and do some extra reading on Craft; great system, but I want a better handle on it!

      Abelard and Cat’s characters are developing very nicely. Kudos to Gladstone 🙂

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  6. This is a great weird book. I really need to get around to reading the second one to see if it hooks me the same — since it’s in the same world but a different city with different characters. I won’t say any more about this one though, because you’re still reading it.

    • Yes, I think I remember you mentioning it on one of my other posts. Please share your thoughts on the rest of the readalong 🙂 So far I’m all in for book 2, although a bit sad that it won’t be the same characters.

  7. Pingback: Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone: Read-along Schedule | Violin in a Void

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