Brilliant and determined young Tara Abernathy has overreached herself in an attempt to make use of her training in the Craft and seems likely to pay with her life. Fortunately, fate intervenes in the form of Elayne Kevarian, a senior adept with the necromantic firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, who makes Tara a job offer she can't and in fact doesn't want to refuse. Soon they are deeply enmeshed in the affairs of the great city of Alt Coulomb, which has been until recently ruled by the benign god Kos Everburning … who turned up dead recently during the regular post-midnight watch of the young cleric Abelard, whose cigarette addiction is an act of devotion to Kos' fiery nature.
The might of Kos will linger until the next dark of the moon, powering the trains and furnaces of his city, but Tara and Ms. Kevarian are running out of time to solve the mystery of the deity's death and arrange for his resurrection to keep Alt Coulomb from falling. There are plenty of other mysteries to be solved as well, which may or may not have to do with the death of Kos. For instance, who killed Judge Cabot in such a spectacularly grisly fashion? With Abelard in tow, Tara runs errands and does research for her boss in a city filled with unlikely wonders, and when the advocate for Kos' creditors shows up, both Tara and her boss come face to face with pasts they'd sooner forget.
Blogger-critic James Nicoll said of these books: "I am very annoyed at the people who have been selecting my reading material for the last 13 years for not having ever sent me a Max Gladstone book and with Gladstone for not having more books in print now that I have discovered them." I feel much the same way. Magical technology, technological magic, women who are badass mage-lawyers, female mentor-apprentice relationships, men and women who are old buddies but not lovers, dead and resurrected deities, vampire pirate captains, cities with jammin' nightclubs and living gargoyles, and so much more: this is one of the most exciting new fantasies I've read in decades.
One other really great thing to note. See this cover for Three Parts Dead? It's accurate in its portrayal of Tara, who is described at one point as "Dark skin, five seven, curly black hair, curvy, freckles. Last seen surrounded by a halo of flame …." Oh yes, Gladstone has no trouble at all with presenting a very diverse cast of characters.