My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First book in a series, which means there is a lot of ground to lay, and Max Gladstone does a great job of doing so. This novel is heavier on worldbuilding than character development at first, but the characters gain in connection as we get further along (he needs to put them into more and more danger).
By the end of the book, I was firmly Team Tara and Team Abelard, and I’m especially intrigued to read book 3, which is apparently Elaine’s story. Our villain (revealed at the end, I won’t spoil) is thoroughly villainous with their own motivations, and gets a fitting comeuppance for their numerous crimes.
This is a secondary world fantasy where at least part of the magic system is… well… accountancy. No, seriously. The magic system is, in part, about the ability to follow patterns of financial transactions between gods and humans, digest and rework information, and use that information as leverage. Also, with engineering. It’s pretty neat. The main characters have to split up and pool information to solve the mystery of Why A God Is Suddenly Dead.
While the first half of this felt a little slow because the groundwork was being laid, the second half of the book takes off at full throttle because everything was built well. Very worthwhile read.