Review of LAST FIRST SNOW by Max Gladstone
A NOVEL OF THE CRAFT SEQUENCE
Tor, July 2015
The wars against the gods are over… and the gods lost. The wards the dead gods cast over the eons, however, linger in one section of the city of Dresediel Lex. As long as those wards remain, the city will be vulnerable to attack and disaster will inevitably follow. On the other hand, as long as the wards remain in place, ordinary people of the slums of the Skittersill can live their lives without fear of being uprooted by development. When a judge turns down the plans drawn up by the King in Red and Craftswoman Elayne Kevarian (survivors and victors of the wars that destroyed the gods), Elayne must find some compromise, some way to get the people living in Skittersill, who are afraid that development means being priced out of their homes and who have faced nothing but oppression from the conquerors. Doing so will take more of her skills even than would replacing those ancient god-drawn wards of protection.
Elayne may have fought in the wars but now she is a seeker of peace. She tracks down the leaders of Skittersill and pleads, bargains and twists arms to bring them to the negotiating table. There is enough value in opening Skittersill to development that those living there can benefit while the developers still get their cut. Just as the contract is signed, disaster strikes and all of Elayne’s efforts toward peace careen out of control.
Author Max Gladstone creates a fascinating world based on the ancient deities of Meso-America, but updated with modern issues of labor exploitation and gentrification. Elayne Kevarian and Temoc, the sole surviving priest of the old religion, are interesting characters, cursed by their respective roles in the God Wars but trying to create something new out of the ruins that remain… but with goals that are opposed as often as they coincide.
There is a lot to like about LAST FIRST SNOW. I did find, however, that Gladstone’s decision not to have a real antagonist, to have the characters acting out parts largely created by the forces of history and the plots of minor characters, weakened the impact of the story for me to a certain extent. Still, I found the book enjoyable and will certainly look for more by Max Gladstone.
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