Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
Published: Tor, 2014
Series: Book 3 of the Craft Sequence

The Book:

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren't conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World.

When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she's grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can't stop it first.”

I’ve been enjoying Gladstone’s work, and I’ve now finished reading all of his currently-published Craft novels (the review of Last First Snow is coming soon).  I read this one as a part of a community read-along, and the spoiler-laden discussions can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.  As a side note, I read this book several months after I went to my first ever Caribbean island to visit a friend, and there were a good few setting details that really reminded me of St. Kitts!

My Thoughts:

The Craft Sequence is a series of standalone books set in the same universe, but I feel like it’s getting to the point with Full Fathom Five that the books are significantly interconnected.  While the main characters and plot can be enjoyed separately from the rest of the series, events and characters from the previous two novels also play a role.  I think that I would now recommend reading Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise first, in order to fully appreciate Full Fathom Five. The series has generally dealt with the interplay between different kinds of Faith and Craft in society, and this novel adds in the idea of idols--mindless economic constructs that are maintained by a priesthood that goes through the motions of worship.  It was interesting to see how this kind of business would affect a society that had historically been religious, and how it could fit into the larger web of power in this world.

The Craft novels also typically feature a creative new culture and society, and Kavekana is probably my favorite thus far.  It is a religious community that has turned to mindless idols in their gods’ absence, in order to maintain their economic and political independence.  Just as the idols are only shadows of their former deities, other things have become warped from their original purpose as well.  For instance, the horrifying stone figures that encase, torture, and brainwash petty criminals might have served a gentler purpose of instruction in better days.  It felt like Kavekana was in a precarious equilibrium, at the point of having lost its old mythology without yet developing something new and meaningful to take its place.  Change is inevitable, though not always good, and I was very curious to see how the mystery at the heart of the novel would change Kavekana.

Kavekana may being going through an overall transition, but how this will affect the people who live there varies based on what level of Kavekana society they inhabit. The island is a different place for the people who work with foreign businesses, the poets and regulars of the casual beach bars, and the refugees and other street children who are just trying to keep enough soul to live. Primarily through the eyes of Kai, an idol priest, and Izza, an orphan of the Wars, we see how different these two views of Kavekana are, and how little they overlap. Kai is very good at her job, and her intelligence and resources put her in place to uncover the conspiracy, but Izza is the one who stole the story for me. I was impressed by her resourcefulness, faith and compassion, even after she had suffered so much already in her short life. She knew very well how bad things could get for her in Kavekana, but still felt obligated to minister to the other children. Their stories do eventually merge, and I enjoyed how well everything tied together in the end.  I hope Izza and Kai show up again in future novels!

My Rating: 4 /5

Full Fathom Five is the third novel in the Craft Sequence, and the first one that I would suggest having read the previous novels first.  It has a standalone story and all is explained as needed, but events and characters from the previous two novels come into play.  The island of Kavekana, which had lost its gods and now marketed idols, felt like a living and changing place, and I was eager to unravel its secrets.  The main characters, Kai and Izza, showed very different views of their society--from the privileged to the homeless.  I appreciated Kai’s determination and intelligence, and was drawn in by Izza’s faith, pain, and internal struggle between self-preservation and caring for others.  This was another excellent installment in the Craft Sequence, and I hope Gladstone writes many more!

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