Another highly unusual fantasy (Three Parts Dead, 2012) set in the same carefully constructed, Aztec-inspired world of gods, magic and sacrifice.
Eighty years have passed since Kopil, the King in Red, defeated the gods and established Red King Consolidated to run the city of Dresediel Lex. Now, demons infest the Bright Mirror reservoir, so Kopil sends in Caleb Altemoc, a professional risk manager and sometime gambler, to cleanse the water for the city’s 16 million inhabitants. At Bright Mirror, Caleb comes across the stunning and elusive Mal, a cliff runner (imagine a sort of superparcours). Meanwhile, Caleb’s father, Temoc, the last priest of the old gods, may be involved in the contamination of the water supply. Temoc makes no secret of the fact that he despises Kopil’s magic and methods and yearns to bring back sacrifices to the gods. Since the city continues to grow, its demand for water and power and materials is insatiable, so Kopil is close to a deal merging RKC with Heartstone, a company that supplies power by torturing the Twin Serpents, slumbering fire gods too fearsome ever to be permitted to wake. But when Caleb discovers that Mal is really Heartstone’s most powerful Craftsman, or wizard, he really begins to wonder what’s going on. He fears the Serpents, but neither can he permit Temoc to resurrect his monstrous, murderous dream. Against this dense, highly textured backdrop, the characters evince emotional depth and convincing motives. Yet questions persist: about how the magic works, the source of Kopil’s god-killing powers and how Temoc manages to elude him. In showing us this vast, teeming, contract-bound city buckling under pressure, Gladstone perhaps is offering a metaphor for end-stage capitalism.
Worth a try, even if it’s often more impressive than alluring.