Source: NetGalley & the Publisher – Thank you!
TL;DR: An incredibly intense but beautifully written first book in a new series with some old favorite characters – Cannot recommend it enough!
Plot: What feels like an easy plot becomes more complicated till it ties into our characters past in some ingenious ways.
Characters: Very flawed, very interesting characters. With a small cast Mr. Gladstone really makes them shine.
Setting: This actually takes Tara out of the big city to her ‘bad lands’ small home town full of small town characters and old prejudice – so well represented.
Magic: Contract based necromancy witchcraft – an interesting and unique system
Dead Country by Max Gladstone is the newest book set in the world of the Craft. Tara is returning to her hometown to attend her father’s funeral and we watch her struggle through grief, anger, and fear along the way. Spoilers – I can’t recommend it enough.
Tara, a familiar face for returning readers, is complicated. She’s strong but simultaneously afraid and grappling with the loss of her father. We follow along, living in her head through this, experiencing the complications of these emotions. It is a testament to Mr. Gladstone’s writing that he’s able to do this in such a powerful way that left me on the edge of tears after certain passages. We are also introduced to a new character Dawn who is leaving behind what seems to have been a deeply abusive and traumatic life on a homestead. She takes the role of a type of student to Tara and through this tie we see the two women break and heal. The idea of trauma passed down between teacher/students is explored. Tara’s teachers at the Hidden Schools were of the worst kind and she is working to be better teacher than what she experienced.
The plot itself is masterfully woven. Max Gladstone manages to tie Tara’s history into the weave of her home town, her actions so many years in the past still having living ramifications in ways you will not expect in the present. Then he manages to take our characters to their limits and nearly remake them for the fight ahead. I was constantly impressed with the way he knit all this together. For new readers and returning ones I feel this is a great jumping in point.
My only caveat for this book is that new readers may take some time to get used to the world and magic. The contract based magic that deals heavily in Necromancy can be difficult to follow at first. But if you stick through it new readers will definitely find a lot to love here. Returning readers as well will love this story, and the setup to follow the ending of the Craft Sequence. This is a huge recommendation from me for fans of the genre.
5 out of 5 Glyph Tattoos
Graphic: Death, Violence, and Death of Parent
Moderate: Bullying, Blood, and War
Minor: Sexual content, Sexual harassment, and Vomit
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