My list of truly great fantasy debuts isn’t that long.
Coming out of the gate with something basically unimpeachable is a monumental task, something some of my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, China Mieville) didn’t accomplish. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch all make the cut.
Today I’m going to add one to the list; Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, the first in a series known as The Craft Sequence.
(In the interest of brevity I’m going to review the three books together, as I read them all in swift succession…and I am lazy)
Fantasy as a genre often gets maligned (fairly at times) as being derivative and lazy. That makes it all the more refreshing that Three Parts Dead hits the ground with ideas and innovations to spare.
1. A female lead who is also a woman of color (rarity enough.)
2. A truly original mix of courtroom drama, police procedural, Lovecraftian horror, romance, and …economic primer?
3. Did I mention that there is a female, non-white lead? And she is neither a man-in-all-but-genetalia or a generic “tough/strong female character?” She is, shockingly enough, a competent, human, flawed character where the flaws feel real, not shoehorned in to make a superhuman feel “relatable.”
4. This list is getting too long, so let me sum up. It has,
Deathless kings. CEO’s who are also skeletons. Living gargoyles. A hive-mind police force which are avatars of Justice. Fire gods. Deified humans. Vampire pirates. Magic that is Business that is Magic. Nightmare telegraphs. Souls used as currency. Gargoyle poets.
Like I said. Original.