Last week, I wrote a little review of the first book in the Craft Sequence, Three Parts Dead. After writing that review, I decided to buy the second book in said sequence, Two Serpents Rise, because I needed more. I wanted more of that world and the characters that inhabited it. Boy did I get what I asked for and then some.
What’s the big deal?
Whereas Three Parts Dead told a story of how things worked in the world Max Gladstone carefully crafted, Two Serpents Rise offers a great deal of insight into how that world came to be. It follows the story of Caleb Altemoc, a professional risk manager with Red King Consolidated, as he tries to figure out what’s behind the shadow monsters infesting the city’s water supply. Dresediel Lex is a city with a bloody history. It was once a city ruled by priesthood ruled by traditions and gods that demanded blood and sacrifice. The God Wars brought the city to its knees and tore down the gods and regimes of old. Gone was the era of sharp knives and gaping chest wounds and in its place was commerce built on Craft and contracts.
Throughout the story, Caleb is brought face-to-face with his own assumptions about the world he now inhabits and the world that once was. A gambler, he takes a chance on a beautiful cliff-runner named Mal who adds a few little wrinkles to his already difficult dealings. On top of that, his own father is the last of the priests who still clings to the old ways, a ring-leader of a terrorist group intent on bringing down the city he views as an abomination. Caleb ends up with more questions and answers than he ever thought he’d have to deal with while trying to keep the city from tearing itself apart.
As someone who is a huge fan of mythology and history, I love learning about the world that Gladstone has created. I also enjoy discovering the cultures that inspired him. The background of Dresediel Lex is heavily inspired by the Aztec civilization and at one point, characters watch a ball game inspired by the one the ancient Mayans used to play. It just goes to show how much thought and research went into the book.
Furthermore, I want to give credit where its due in that Gladstone does a great job of filling his story with diversity without feeling like its pandering or trying to mark off a diversity bingo card. The color and sexuality of his characters are just things they happen to be. It’s not all they are. In an interview with Think Progress, he addresses his characters’ diversity and other topics. It’s slightly spoilery, but a good read.
I really want to go into greater detail, but I’d hate to spoil it for you guys. All I can say is that Gladstone is still on his A-game here and never fails to surprise with the twists and turns of his plot. His colorful characters and ability to turn an excellent phrase has inspired me to attempt to do more with my prose. Also, I have gotten both of my parents hooked and I’ve pre-ordered the third in the sequence, Full Fathom Five. I honestly can’t recommend these books enough.