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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

An Urban Fantasy/Mystery/Legal Thriller Mashup, with Humans, Vampires, and Gargoyles (whew)

Three Parts Dead - Max Gladstone

There's a LOT going on in this debut novel, and some of it is pulled off better than other stuff.

--kick-ass protagonist. Tara is a young woman of color who's been expelled from a school of Craft (magic using power from the stars, souls, and other sources), who is hired by....
--a kick-ass secondary character. Ms. Elayne Kevorian is a private investigator from a well-respected firm, who's been engaged to discover how and why a god named Kos has been killed. As it turns out, sometime in the past she had had a relationship with a ...
--kick-ass creepy character, which Did Not End Well. I pictured this guy as an evil George Clooney--smooth, manipulative, charming, but COLD underneath. He's representing clients who are protesting the provisions of Kos' "will," so to speak (commitments that the god made that must be honored upon his death).
--All of this action takes place in a port city called Alt Coulumb, which I pictured as a gothic Gotham--there are gargoyles on the buildings, and a central temple dedicated to Kos the Everburning, the recently departed god. I especially liked the details of the economics of this city, which many fantasy books overlook. The universe as a whole is a mishmash of vampires, god(esse)s, supernatural shapeshifters, humans, shades, etc., but I thought it worked.

--the uneven pacing. It never felt like the book settled down into a rhythm of steadily building tension, which is what you want in a mystery investigation. The switching POVs weren't always done well, either.
--the main character (Tara) was a bit of a Mary Sue. It didn't feel like she was in actual mortal danger sometimes.
--In the end, it didn't seem to me to be Tara's story at all. Turned out that two of the other characters were actually calling the shots behind the scenes. That's fine, and I've seen that done well, but it felt like a bit of a cheat, like Tara wasn't the hero of her own story.

I liked the universe, so I'm glad to see that this is the first in a series set there. I think the author shows great promise--I'll be interested to see what his later books are like (3 of them, at last count). I'd recommend this book to fans of fantasy, urban fantasy, and possibly paranormal romance, although that's not a particular focus of this book.