Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead is part steampunk urban fantasy, part necromantic legal thriller and all parts entrancing read. The fantasy setting, a once Earth-like world ravaged by the warring of gods and mortals, is fully realized but not overbearing. Alt Coulumb is one of the few cities still ruled by a deity, and Kos, a fiery survivor of the God Wars, keeps the massive metropolis running with steam generators and a calming presence in the hearts of His citizens. His sudden death spells trouble for the city and its four million residents.
The impending legal battle over Kos's remaining contracts (bartered promises of power from which deities gain or lose strength) draws Tara Abernathy to Alt Coulumb. As a new associate of the necromancy firm Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao, she must raise a god from the dead before the city slips into chaos. An eccentric cast helps and hinders her mission, including a chain-smoking priest, a party girl/vampire bite junkie and a gargoyle whose presence at a murder scene makes him a fugitive. Gladstone populates his world with other eccentricities, such as the law enforcing hive-mind called Justice, to create an engrossing sense of breadth and depth. It's a refreshing success in a genre where world-building is so necessary--but sometimes not necessarily convincing.
Gladstone's story is both cosmic in scope and deeply personal. His is a dark world where individuals face frightening monsters and magic, but also cherish the ever-burning embers of hope and love. Three Parts Dead is a powerhouse debut novel sure to entice even non-fantasy readers. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer