Review: ‘Last First Snow’ by Max Gladstone

Have you started reading the Craft Sequence yet? Because if not you are now four books Last First Snow (Craft Sequence #4)behind in what is probably the best series running under the speculative fiction label. I come to this conclusion slowly. I have not personally five starred any of the previous outings despite finding them all highly enjoyable. And here is a spoiler for you; I will be giving Last First Snow four stars instead of five at the end of the review.

Because what we have here is a series that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is high praise because each outing of this series has been unique and wonderful, brimming with a creative setting unlike any other and dealing with a cast of characters that hasn’t disappointed throughout. The design and outlining that has gone into crafting (bad pun) this series to date is nothing short of exceptional. Because while up to now we have seen plenty of overlapping the first three books we complete standalones in a timeline we could only guess at. With Last First Snow it is all coming together AND continuing to operate as a complete stand alone.

For the first time the main protagonists are people we have spent serious time with before though neither were the main characters in their previous appearance. A craft lawyer (aka magical necromancer who operates within some rules) and a former priest of now dead gods find their paths crossed during land negotiations. That’s right, negotiations over land. That is what this book is about. Except of course, it is so much more. Because it is a battle of classes, a battle of gods, a fight about tradition (which means live sacrifice) and of course—a battle of law. When lawyers can toss magical shields, priests can take a hands on approach to violence, and a skeleton represents the ruling class anything can happen.

What makes this book great is the same thing that has powered the three previous entries. It is fast paced and unique. It makes seemingly mundane details matter; particularly when the very base of the story involves a common land dispute. When the fantasy aspects really start to show their face they turn things up to eleven. And the strength of the characters is second to none. This is a world without villains but full of people to love and hate. Everyone has motivations that are understandable; some selfish and some less so but all very human.

But what makes this a great series is the way everything is starting to come together. It is no secret that the chronology of this series is represented by the numbers in the title. With this forth book being the first some questions are being answered. Questions I didn’t know I had. Characters are fleshed out, the land’s history is becoming clearer, even the nature of the craft that we have seen used since the beginning is becoming more clear. Context we didn’t need yet craved is being provided book but increasingly good book.

This may be the best book of the series. It may not, I seem to be saying that after each new outing. Certainly my own opinion is suspect because I am a sucker for books that hint at class warfare. And let’s give some credit for have a likeable character involved in human sacrifice (something I have only seen in Aliette de Bodard’s historical fantasy series before). Not that I am a propionate of human sacrifice but it adds an interesting dynamic in this case.

I ask again. Are you reading the Craft Sequence? Because if it isn’t obvious, I think you should be.

4 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

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