Three Parts Dead
One of the loveliest things about ICFA was that at the luncheons and the banquet, you got a book at your place. I think it was at the Friday luncheon that I found Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead at mine. When I read the dust jacket synopsis, I was informed that “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.” It was then I knew that I had to find room in my suitcase for this book.
Tara is a kind of magician called a “Craftswoman” in her world. She starts her adventure by literally digging up a grave and reanimating the bodies inside it, but is then called to a city called Alt Coulumb to investigate the death of the God, which, while not an everyday occurrence, is not quite as unheard-of as you might think: “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…Well. Much like Tara’s revenants back at Edgemont, a being once resurrected was never quite the same.”
Tara finds herself arguing the case of the dead God, Kos, in court against her former teacher, and to prove her case, she has to do investigating of her own. She takes the face of a living stone gargoyle, involves a vampire pirate, performs mind control on a member of the local police force, and gets to know one of Kos’ priests, Abelard, to whom “using the love of your god as a heat source for steam power is perfectly normal.”
Three parts detective novel and one part science fiction, this is a wild romp through eschatology, metaphysics, and the nature of justice that ends up with Tara taking some responsibility for the continuing welfare of Alt Coulumb and its inhabitants. She takes a leave of absence from the necromantic firm in order to see the life she has brought back to the god take hold, rather than just moving on to the next dead fellow someone wants brought back to life. What an ethical necromancer, er Craftswoman, she is.