Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence -1) by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone

Craft Sequence series by Max Gladstone. 


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Excerpt: Read the First Five Chapters of Full Fathom Five (Excerpt) by Max Gladstone |

Genres and Sub-GenresEdit

Urban Fantasy / Legal Thriller in a fantasy setting

✥ "Secondary world fantasy with a post-industrial setting rather than the High Medieval milieu." ~ Max Gladstone

Series Description or Overview Edit

✥ About the cutthroat world of international necromancy: wizards in pinstriped suits and gods with shareholders' committees. ~ Max Gladstone

✥ The city of Alt Coulumb came out of the God Wars with one of its gods intact, Kos the Everburning. In return for the worship of his people, Kos provides heat and steam power to the citizens of Alt Coulumb; he is also the hub of a vast network of power relationships with other gods and god-like beings across the planet. Oh, and he has just died. If he isn’t revived in some form by the turn of the new moon, the city will descend into chaos and the finances of the globe will take a severe hit. ~ Patheos

✥ The story paints a picture of a fascinating world where gods are a commodity to be bought and sold, where “soulstuff” is the coin of the realm, and where knowledge of the Craft can be a key to immortality…of a sort. ~Three Parts Dead ~ Patheos

✥ In the series, we’ve seen the rise and fall of deities (Three Parts Dead), the near catastrophic loss of a technology based corporation that provides power in the place of any deities (Two Serpents Down) and in Full Fathom Five we see the middle-option; fake deities (literally idols) as a way of putting oneself outside either of the other systems. - See more at: Suvudu

Themes Edit

  • Observations of faith and power
  • Faith can be an economic commodity

List of Craft Sequence media Edit

Craft Sequence novels:

  • Three Parts Dead (2012)
  • Two Serpents Rise (2013)
  • Full Fathom Five (July 15, 2014)
  • Last First Snow (2015)
  • Four Roads Cross (2016)
  • The Ruin of Angels (2017)

Craft Sequence games: 

  • Choice of the Deathless (2013) 
  • City's Thirst (2015) 

Chronological order: 

  • City's Thirst
  • Last First Snow
  • Two Serpents Rise
  • Three Parts Dead
  • Choice of the Deathless
  • Four Roads Cross
  • Full Fathom Five
  • The Ruin of Angel

World Building Edit

Settings Edit

  • City of Alt Coulumb — the city of Kos Everlasting
  • City of Dresediel Lex — desert city by the sea; overthrew its gods and set science-based magic up in its place; once demanded blood and sacrifice
  • Island of Kavekana — divinely controlled Old World

The Supernatural Elements Edit

Gods, Craft Practitioners, necromancers, wizards, sorcerers, necromantic firm, magic users, revenants, God Wars, Shadow demons, Twin Serpents beneath the earth, skeletons, coatl (dragon-like serpent), Tzimet,

  • Craft Practitioner: resurrect the dead—necromancers—their power stems from the same source as that of the gods.
  • Stone Men: gargoyles, who are now despised and hunted in Alt Coulumb, but who formerly enjoyed a very close relationship with the goddess Serit;
  • Skeletons: undead wizards/craft-practitioners/necromancers
  • Tzimet: a form of water creature that spawns nasty creatures to kill and maim
  • Idols (fake deities) like gods, sculpted by humans, constructs, tools to allow for the storage and contracting of the client soulstuff—non-sentient and can't speak. (bk-4)

Organizations & Groups:

  • Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao: international necromantic firm
  • Hidden Schools: schools for the Craft (necromancy)
  • Red King Consolidated: provides clean water to the desert city of Dresediel Lex
  • True Quechal: terrorists; want to return to the Old Gods & human sacrifice
  • Heartstone: last competitor to be subsumed by Red King Consolidated
  • Penitent: great stone golem-like creations that enforce Kavekana’s laws and brainwash the people sentenced to serve inside them until the duty to safeguard Kavekana takes priority above all else;

World Description Edit

✥ A hedonistic world in which incredibly powerful sorcerers won a war against the world’s corrupt gods and established themselves as the power in the land. ~ Arts and Literature

✥ Gladstone’s world-building involves magical takes on fields that aren’t typically addressed in fantasy—in this case, litigation. Gods, rather than being mysterious, unknowable, and omnipotent, have direct relationships with their followers. Their abilities bring happiness and joy to believers, create rain in the desert, cure illnesses—but also fuel metropolitan transit systems, back military operations, and promote trading partnerships with multinational corporations. Like all powerful people, then, the divine are always in need of good legal representation.

✥ Worship is power in the universe of this series, and power is not merely divine power (although it is also that) but all actual power like electricity. It heats homes and lights cities. ~ Suvudu

✥ In this world the power of the Craftspeople stems from the same source as that of the gods. When the gods saw the mistakes the human Craftspeople are making, the gods come down to the physical realm to ‘take care of it'. The Craftspeople fought back and the gods were slaughtered. As a result, while the eastern part of the world still has gods, the cities of the west have none. With the exception of Alt Coulumb in the city of Kos Everlasting. Kos is the last living god in the west who survived the war by Switzerland-ing the whole thing. Except Kos has just been murdered. Thus begins an entertaining and intelligent story that's equal parts action-adventure, fantasy, culture clash, mystery and courtroom drama.

It's a common fantasy trope that supernatural beings get their power from the belief of humans but Gladstone's world takes that one step farther. While belief and worship are enough to sustain a god, most of their power comes from power loans written up in contracts. So let's say you're a god, and another god or Craftsperson would like to be able to call on your personal energy if necessary for defense of their land. A contract is then written up where you agree to allow them to use up to 10% of your total power, under very specific circumstances. In exchange for this the other god feeds you a constant trickle of power over the five years of the contract that ends up with you gaining something like 15% overall. So they get a pool of power to call on in emergencies and you get a larger power base in the end.

As a result Craftspeople end up being part necromancers, part lawyers—they write up the contracts and if necessary enforce them, for both sides. Ms. Kevarian and Tara may be working for the priesthood in this resurrection bid but Kos also had creditors, those he owed power to who thus also have a vested interest in Kos being resurrected, according to their personal specifications. The opposing counsel is someone both Tara and Ms. Kevarian's have history with who may be too powerful to defeat and is legally allowed to oppose them at every turn. ~ Three Parts Dead ~ io9

✥ A god's obligations don't end with death. Gods, however, made deals. It was the essence of their power.

When a goddess neared death, the needs of her faithful, and of those to whom she was bound in contract, stuck like hooks in her soul. She could not desert her obligations, nor honor them and remain intact. The tension tore her mind to shreds of ectoplasm, leaving behind a body of inchoate divine power that a competent Craftswoman could reassemble into something that looked and functioned like the old goddess. But, much like Tara's revenants back at Edgemont, a being once resurrected was never quite the same. (pp. 66-7) The power of gods is bound up in deals and contracts, agreements and promissory notes. This is an intriguing world, a secondary world fantasy that's both recognizably modern and imaginatively, invigoratingly magical. ~ Strange Horizons Reviews: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, reviewed by Liz Bourke

Idols (fake deities) are like gods, except they are literally created by humans. Actually sculpted to accept worship and hold contracts, just like real deities. Investing in an idol avoids paying tithes in deity-country and taxes in corporation territory. ~ Suv These ‘gods’ aren’t supposed to be sentient or be able to speak. They are created merely as constructs, tools to allow for the storage and contracting of the client soulstuff. NYR But what happens when the idols start waking up and dispensing inspiration and grace? In other words, what happens when a tiny country whose ability to fend off both sides rests on the neutrality of the idols they create, and when those idols cease being neutral? ~ Suv

Main PlacesEdit

Alt Coulumb is a city: whose infrastructure is deeply linked to a god whose death is, in turn, linked to the legal contracts that he has to fulfil in order to keep the city working; where a blind Goddess’ new life is connected to Law-keeping and to the hive-mind of Justice; where stone Gargoyles might or might not be evil and Craftsmen turn into skeletons as they get more powerful. (book 1) ~ Kirkus

Dresediel Lex is a city with a bloody history. It was once a city ruled by priesthood ruled by traditions and gods that demanded blood and sacrifice. The God Wars brought the city to its knees and tore down the gods and regimes of old. Gone was the era of sharp knives and gaping chest wounds and in its place was commerce built on Craft and contracts. (book 2) 

Island of Kavekana: The independent tropical island of Kavekana, whose gods died in the God Wars, is controlled by an order of priests who build idols to order. These facsimile gods lack consciousness and wills of their own, but they accept sacrifices and protect the priests’ clients from other gods. Kavekana keeps foreign gods at bay: icons are impounded by customs, priests arrested and sentenced to serve in Penitents—great stone golem-like creations that enforce Kavekana’s laws and brainwash the people sentenced to serve inside them until the duty to safeguard Kavekana takes priority above all else. (book 3) ~ Tor

Concepts Edit

One of the foundational concepts of this story is that practicing law is roughly equivalent to practicing necromancy. That what we would call a law firm this universe would consider to be a partnership in a craft firm, where the Craft involved is the Craft of resurrecting the dead. Contract law is all about siphoning living energy from people.

Another construct underpinning this world is the idea of a world where gods are created and/or maintained by the worship of their followers.

So we have the “legal” question of what happens when a god dies with contracts outstanding. And since Kos Everburning is a god, he always has outstanding contracts. After all, he was supposed to live forever. And he will. The question is who will control his resurrection; his worshippers or the opposing forces who have bought up those contracts that are about to default. ~ Review: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone | Escape Reality, Read Fiction!

Protagonist Edit

Tara Abernathy is a Craftwoman, one capable of manipulating the soulstuff that enlivens every person. With a little careful effort she can restore the recently dead to a kind of life; of course, it’s necessary to trim away the fiddly bits of the soul so as to leave energy for basic functions. When she is brought to Alt Coulumb by her mentor she assumes that the job will be to do much the same for Kos, stripping away the damaged identity and higher features of the personality and leaving a kind of spiritual machine that can do the essential work that Kos did. Something similar was done at the end of the God War to Kos’ dead consort Seris, who was responsible for civic order; the result was the cold, blind soul machine called Justice, whose unstoppable Blacksuits police the streets of Alt Coulumb. ~ Patheos

Caleb Altemoc begins as a mid-level administrator for RKC with a penchant for gambling

Kai Pohala makes fake ‘gods’ (or idols) for clients and does the worshipping of them in their place and has her attempt at saving one of the dying gods foiled by some well meaning co-workers. Kai hears the god speak at the end of her life when these ‘gods’ aren’t supposed to be sentient or be able to speak. They are created merely as constructs, tools to allow for the storage and contracting of the client soulstuff. This sends Kai on a hunt to try to figure out: is she going insane and has really just been overworking herself as her boss says, or is there something else going on and she was correct in her belief that the ‘god’ could have been saved? ~ Review: Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone |Not Yet Read

Kai Pohala is a priest, and very good at her job. When she tries to save a dying idol, she’s badly injured, and sidelined from the business: written off by her boss as unstable. Outside parties are investigating the death of the idol, and Kai feels sure that there is some kind of conspiracy involved, something that explains the idol’s death, the outside interest in it, and what she experienced in the last minutes before the idol died. ~ Tor

Recurring Characters Edit

Characters What About
Tara Abernathy first-year associate Protagonist book #1; at Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao; Tara’s job: resurrect Kos;
Kos Everlasting fire god, recently deceased formerly the last living god in the West; Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in
Elayne Kevarian, ‘Boss Lady' senior partner in the firm of Kelethras, Albrecht and Ao engaged to deal with the business arising from the death of Kos: look after the interest of Alt Coulumb and Kos's worshippers in the matter of his resurrection; whisks Tara away to be her assistant;
Abelard Novice Technician; priest of Kos; aids Tara in the murder investigation of Kos; chain-smoker: flames are an homage to his god;
Shale gargoyle one of the Stone Men; Kos's consort before the so-called God Wars
Serit goddess close relationship with the Stone Men
Cat Blacksuit; junkie-cum-policewoman Abelard's friend; connected with Serit's successor, Justice; on duty: part of a single entity that thinks and acts according to one will—Justice's; Off-duty, she tries to fill the absence left behind via ever more dangerous highs: she's a vampire junkie;
Alexander Denovo Craft practitioner adversary; responsible for Tara's near-fatal departure from the Hidden Schools; makes claims on Kos's power;
Serit dead goddess successor: Justice
Justice Serit's successor a shell of power resurrected from the dead goddess: Serit
Caleb Altemoc magical consultant; professional risk manager Protagonist book #2; sent to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex; casual gambler
Mal female executive for Heartstone cliff runner, Caleb finds her at scene of the crime;
Kopil, King in Red powerful gay skeleton; Craft practitioner; A skeleton in a red robe, held together by the magic of his will; sent Caleb to get the demons out; Sixty years ago he led the forces that threw down the gods of the city; gave up his flesh to live forever;
Teo Caleb's best friend person who is there for Caleb at every turning point in his life and in the story, because they are best friends
Temoc Caleb’s father last living priest of the old gods who thinks that RKC and the King in Red are anathema. He’s a terrorist moving heaven and earth to get the old gods back, though they required human sacrifice
Kai Pohala priest Protagonist book #3; When she tries to save a dying idol, she’s badly injured, and sidelined
Izza teenaged street child, thief, storyteller refugee from a war-torn homeland who washed up on Kavekana; the storyteller—the priestess—for a small group of street children whose gods keep dying

To expand the table, right-press or (Control-press on a Mac)—choose add row. ~ Sources: see reviews below in Links section.

Max Gladstone

Max Gladstone

Author Edit

Max Gladstone

Bio: Max has taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia. Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese.

Max is a John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award Nominee for 2013. His first book, Three Parts Dead, is a Massachusetts Must Read book of 2013. Two Serpents Rise, the next novel in the Craft Sequence, will be published in October 2013. ~ Amazon

Writing Style: literally paints pictures in the reader's mind;

Cover ArtistEdit


Full Fathom Five — Original Art by Chris McGrath

Artist: Chris McGrath

Publishing InformationEdit

  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • Author Page: Max Gladstone | Authors | Macmillan
  • Bk-1: Hardcover, 336 pages, Pub: Oct 2nd 2012—ISBN: 0765333104
  • Bk-1: Paperback, 336 pages, Pub: July 23rd 2013—ISBN: 0765333112
  • Bk-2: Hardcover, 352 pages, Pub: Oct 29th 2013—ISBN: 0765333120
  • Bk-2: Paperback, 368 pages, Pub: April 29th 2014—ISBN: 0765333139
  • Bk-3: Hardcover, 368 pages, Pub: July 15th 2014—ISBN: 0765335743

Book Cover Blurbs Edit

BOOK ONE BLURB—Three Parts Dead (2012): 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 is Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead God, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith. But when the duo discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and the city’s slim hope of survival.

BOOK TWO BLURB—Two Serpents Rise (2013): 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. ~ Goodreads | Two Serpents Rise (#2) 

BOOK THREE BLURB—Full Fathom Five (July 15, 2014): The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world of Three Parts Dead. On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first. ~ Goodreads | Full Fathom Five (#3)


First Sentence Edit

  • Book 1: God wasn't answering tonight.
  • Book 2: The goddess leaned over the card table and whispered, "Go all in."
  • Book 3: The idol would drown that night.
  • Book 4: For false gods, they cast long shadows.

Quotes Edit

Max Gladstone Quotes (Author of Three Parts Dead) ~ Goodreads

“Before this case is over, Abelard, you may have to choose between the city you believe you inhabit, and Alt Coulumb as it exists in truth. What choice will you make?” ~ Kirkus

Awards Edit

Author Notes Edit

✥ Gladstone explained his take on divinity in the world of Three Parts Dead during a recent sit-down interview. “How would a world work in which you actually felt every morning, when you prayed to that god, your furnace would turn on?” he said when we met earlier this month. “That was how you turned your furnace on?” Grounding the metaphysical only highlighted what he felt was most important in the book: “In a world where those contracts are external and not just implied, how would that change the relationship between you and your god?” ~

✥ "Magic in the great secondary-world fantasy novels isn’t just an add-on; it stands in for or replaces some aspect of the world. Magic in Tolkein sort of replaces political and moral authority: Aragorn is king because magic, if Sauron gets the Ring he wins Middle Earth regardless of what happens on the map. In C.S. Lewis (both the Space Trilogy and Narnia) magic stands in for religion. In LeGuin it stands in for a lot of things, chief among them knowledge. That’s an elevated set of comparisons to use, and I don’t mean to say I’m on that level—but in my books, magic is standing in for the economy." ~ ThinkProgress Interview

✥ "One of the bestparts of writing my kind of fantasy—secondary world fantasy with a post-industrial setting rather than the High Medieval milieu—is that I get to engage more directly with the world in which I live. All my Craft books, from Three Parts Dead through to my latest, Full Fathom Five, examine modern life through the lens of magic: necromancers in pinstriped suits, gods with board meetings, young wizards struggling with student loans, etcetera. So, in Full Fathom Five, I wrote about offshore banking, false gods, a society dealing with the aftershocks of radical global change—golem punching, financial wizardry, spies, and not-for-profit madness—refugee communities, opera, slam poetry and outsider religion—clashing gender and sexuality norms in a small nation fighting cultural assimilation—the political hazards of serving as a tourism and financial services hub—" ~ My Favorite Bit

Trivia Edit

~ ranked on Best Urban Fantasy Series (181 series) ~ Goodreads


External References Edit




The World, Characters, etc:


Reviews: ~ Three Parts Dead #1:

~ Two Serpents Rise #2: 

~ Full Fathom Five:



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Gallery of Book Covers Edit

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