"Four Roads Cross" - Book Review

The fifth book that Max Gladstone has written in the "Craft Sequence" - although fourth chronologically within its world. Gladstone's penchant for writing out of order has significantly reduced the suspense that could have existed in his stories had we not already known that certain characters survived.

We find Tara Abernathy as house counsel to the Church of Kos Everburning in the city of Alt Coulumb. She's stayed on after the events of the first (written) book, Three Parts Dead - an odd behaviour for a Craftswoman, as Craftsmen are in general on the opposite side of the table from gods. And now she has a significant crisis on her hands, because Kos loves Seril, and Seril, although resurrected, is A) still technically dead, B) weak, and C) likely to be perceived as a significant financial liability to Kos when the truth comes out ... which of course it does.

Several other major and minor characters from Three Parts Dead reappear. The writing is consistently good, with moments of excessively clever: "The Evangelists, thank any and all gods, had coffee: grim, nasty stuff, notes of hydrofluoric acid, undertones of charcoal, ground glass mouthfeel, aftertaste of squid. The sheen across the top reminded Tara of oil slicks she'd seen. But at least it was coffee, by someone's definition." I think it's a great description, but it's more an author showing off ("look what I can do") than working hard to tell a story. Gladstone writes a lot of his prose like this, although happily not usually quite so flashy, but it's sometimes a bit tiresome to read. Again, as with his other books, the story is good. But this book sees his promise of "four books in the Craft sequence" (which he made after the first or second book) fall by the wayside. This is the fifth book, and I really wish he'd stuck to his promise. It's by no means a bad book, but it no longer has the spark and the life that was most visible in the first book and which has been slowly fading ever since. He's a hell of a world-builder, and he should go build another world.

Previous Reviews

I actually recommend against reading these reviews if it's your intent to read the series - for the reasons mentioned above, namely that you'll find out who's in one book and then know they can't die in a previous book. Go read Three Parts Dead, which is one of the best urban fantasy novels ever written. If you like it, think about Last First Snow, which is chronologically the first book and also the second best of the series in my opinion. Read the rest chronologically: look for a number in the title, "First," "Two," "Three," "Four," and "Five." (Does that mean the next book has to be after all of these?)