Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

FAN: Discuss various fictional worlds that don't qualify for SF.

Moderator: Steve

Post Reply
User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 25709
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Broomstick » 2018-02-12 01:00am

I discovered an urban fantasy series called the Craft Sequence and was wondering if anyone else has heard of it. It's an alternate history urban fantasy, set in a parallel world where gods are real (and the equivalent of corporations and/or governments), in a setting after the God Wars when human magic workers learned to take on great power so some governments are now run by Deathless Kings/Queens instead of Deities.

Magic, called Craft, is the basis of economics as well substantial amounts of technology (they also have steam punk and electricity). Craftsmen and Craftswomen take on roles that white collar workers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and company CEO's have in our world. One very strange thing is that using the Craft is a route to immortality - hence the "Deathless" Kings and Queens. The hitch is that while the spirit endures the flesh does not, decay is slowed but not posted forever... Eventually a Craftsperson becomes an animated skeleton. These are regarded as strange, scary (because any such person has to be extremely powerful), and a normal part of a Craftperson's lifecycle. They aren't regarded as evil or uncanny, just... really old, powerful people become animated skeletons. You grow old, wrinkled, toothless, bald, really skinny, skinless, fleshless, truly bony...

Gods can die and be "reanimated" - which is very, very like the bankruptcy restructuring of one of our large corporations.

Everything is paid for by "soulstuff" - want a cup of coffee? You pay with a tiny fragment of your soul. Even ordinary people can accumulate it, indeed it is the basis of ALL economy in this world. If you personally become bankrupt you can wind up a zombie of sorts, forced to labor to pay off your debt.

In addition are weird things like hive-mind faceless police, gargoyles, a magical academy literally in the clouds, various eldritch horrors, byzantine back-stabbing, mind-control, vampires, golems, a tentacled horror sipping a drink in a bar and inviting a main character over for bridge night.... and that's just in the first book.

I'm also enjoying it in part because a lot of strong characters are female (although in a few cases gender may no longer apply) and not everyone is white, it makes the whole thing more interesting.

Anyhow, so far I've read Three Part Dead and I'm partway into Two Serpents Rise. The current full list of titles is:

Three Part Dead
Two Serpents Rise
Full Fathom Five
Last First Snow
Four Roads Cross
Ruin of Angels


All the novels take place in the same world but at different times and places, and are not strongly connected other than the shared background.

Here's the weird thing - these novels revolve around very mundane, boring sounding plot concepts. Three Part Dead is a bankruptcy restructuring of a major corporation/dead god/city-state seen from the viewpoint of lawyer and bureaucrat equivalents, but I fond it much more engaging and interesting than that sounds. Two Serpents Rise's protagonist is a mid-level risk management bureaucrat for a water utility. It starts with a city reservoir being found to be contaminated by a magical serpent-demon that ate the reservoir security guard. The CEO of the water utility is a Deathless King skeleton who killed (as in, literally killed off) the original gods of the city during the God Wars and likes to wear read clothing and whose office desk was once the main altar for human sacrifice in the city. Oh, and he's gay. And likes coffee. Yes, the animated skeletons eat and drink. What? you ask. This is lampshaded in the first book when a "priest technician" asks another Deathless King how he can speak when he has no lips, tongue, throat, or lungs - the only answer he (and we) get is "that's a good question". But really, Two Serpents Rise is about a mid-level bureaucrat at a public utility.

One reason I think I like it is because it's a break from a lot of urban fantasy centering around a private eye type of character (not that there's anything wrong with the Dresden Files...I enjoy them immensely).

Anyhow - anyone else hear of this one? Anyone else read it?
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

User avatar
Kingmaker
Jedi Knight
Posts: 534
Joined: 2009-12-10 03:35am

Re: Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Kingmaker » 2018-02-12 12:34pm

They're pretty good overall, though I've found the quality fairly variable. I found 3PD and 4RC to be better than and 2SR RoA, which were turn was better than L1S (which I was underwhelmed with at the time and liked less the more I though about it). Also: I feel obliged to slightly contradict you, in that the novels are mostly stand alone, but not entirely. Four Roads Cross is a direct sequel to Three Parts Dead, Last First Snow is a prequel detailing how Temoc from Two Serpents Rise got to be how he was, and Ruin of Angels stars the heroine of Full Fathom Five.

It's worth noting that Gladstone uses the fantasy elements to considerably sex up what would otherwise be relatively boring procedural stuff. It's one thing to say that the first book is corporate bankruptcy restructuring, but this is a universe where court cases are literal duels between wizards. And While Caleb from Two Serpents Rise is a risk manager, he is also (very technically) the last priest of the old gods.
In the event that the content of the above post is factually or logically flawed, I was Trolling All Along.

"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." - George Box

User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 25709
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Re: Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Broomstick » 2018-02-12 12:41pm

According to on-line information although some of the books are sequels/prequels of others they can be read in any order and the author tried to write them so they can function as stand-alone novels as well as part of a series. As I have only fully read one book and am only partway through another I can't confirm that.

And yes, it's the "sexing up" of the character's day jobs that makes it interesting. I think it's a unique approach to novel-writing and even if not prefect the author does a surprisingly good job of making it all interesting and engaging.

The other thing (so far) is that while there are some very dark aspects to this universe it's not what I would describe as grimdark or entirely crapsack. The characters we follow are involved in some icky stuff but I get the impression that life for the ordinary person isn't that bad. It isn't paradise, either, but the world seems to be a place where it's at least possible an average person to find some level of safety, security, satisfaction, and even happiness. Assuming you aren't at ground zero for a Craftspeople vs. God/dess war, of course, but that's analogous to war and natural disaster in our world.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

Ralin
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2336
Joined: 2008-08-28 04:23am

Re: Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Ralin » 2018-02-13 12:20am

Heard about them a week or so ago. Thought the premise was interesting, probably would have given them a try by now if they were in Kindle Unlimited.

User avatar
Elheru Aran
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 12125
Joined: 2004-03-04 01:15am
Location: Georgia

Re: Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-02-13 01:17pm

This sounds rather interesting. I was poking around in the bookstore for this last night and couldn't find it, though. Is it just e-books?
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

User avatar
Broomstick
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 25709
Joined: 2004-01-02 07:04pm
Location: Industrial armpit of the US Midwest
Contact:

Re: Craft Sequence: A Series I Recently Stumbled Upon

Post by Broomstick » 2018-02-13 02:09pm

I got a five-volume omnibus off Amazon for about $12. Not sure how available hardcopies are.
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. Leonard Nimoy.

Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.- Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity, which sums up my feelings regarding the lawsuit discussed here.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. - John F. Kennedy

Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice

Post Reply