Shorter one this month, recommending a new thing I just finished reading that impressed me rather than an old favourite. I don’t quite know how to categorise the Craft novels; the setting is a little bit steampunk, a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy and a little bit something else. The basic premise of the world is that it takes place a little way into the future, where water has become the defining resource of the planet and power belongs to the companies who produce and control it – by using local gods for fun and profit, as well as mage lawyers.
(Shoutout to the Something Awful Let’s Play forums for recommending these: they covered one of Gladstone’s interactive text games, Choice of the Deathless by Choice Of Games, which is also set in this universe and lets you explore how the magic system works with your own character.)
The books (so far) are as follows: Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross and The Ruin of Angels. Each one has its own separate plot, but also ties in to each of the others and builds up to an overall story in the way so many authors try for and so few actually manage. The separate protagonists lead separate lives and their paths cross as the series goes on, and it manages to feel natural and plausible rather than being forced for the sake of the plot.
We’re checking all the representation boxes this time – there are a lot of queer and bi characters of different genders, various ethnicities (amongst others, two of the books are set in almost-Mexico and almost-Hawaii), and several trans characters, and it all seems (from my outsider perspective, for whatever that’s worth) to be well done and natural and none of them feel like they’re there just to prove a point. It’s just an inclusive setting in a way you don’t often see.
I can’t say too much without giving away the plot, and these are books you need to experience for yourselves. There’s a lot of detail and a lot of thought and some very clever moments. And interesting magic, of course. The Craft is powered by starlight, and blood, and gods, and other stuff depending on who’s using it. There’s necromancy, religious/clerical magic, your good old-fashioned raining fireballs, some neat dimensional stuff – something for everyone, with a healthy pile of humour on top.
Turns out Max himself says it better than I can. From his website:
The God Wars ended, and we’re living with the world they left.
I write the Craft Sequence series of books and games, set in a postindustrial (and post-war) fantasyland, where black magic is big business, wizards wear pinstriped suits and conduct necromantic procedures on dead gods, and day-to-day commerce rests on people trading pieces of their souls for goods and services. The Craft Sequence books are legal thrillers about faith, or religious thrillers about law and finance. Plus there are hive-mind police forces, poet gargoyles, brainwashing golems, nightmare telegraphs, surprisingly pleasant demons, worldshattering magic, environmental devastation, and that deepest and darkest evil: student loans.
Have fun. I did.