Full Fathom Five – Max Gladstone

5 Stars

Welcome to part three of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.

Full Fathom Five is book three in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the fifth book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order and you can check out our discussion of Two Serpents Rise here for part one.

Cover from Goodreads

Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.

Full Fathom Five is the first book with significant overlap in the narrative with previous books in The Craft Sequence. Elayne Kevarian plays a small role, but the events in Full Fathom Five hinge completely on the events in Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Not only do we see Elayne again, but Cat and Teo help drive the story forward. While those three characters are present, they are not the main characters in Full Fathom Five. The main characters are once again, new for this book. Kai and Izza live on Kavekana, an island that strongly reminds me of Hawaii. They are the core of Full Fathom Five and find themselves often at odds and sometimes allies.

Full Fathom Five is my favorite of the series so far. I loved seeing the stories from the first two books finally intertwine. Each culture Gladstone builds for his stories is unique and rich. The characters all have rich backstories and through his writing, he sheds light on just how interconnected everything is. Reading this series has given me a glimpse into Globalization and how it can be both a wonderful and terrible thing.

Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part one of our discussion and a giveaway of the whole series. Be sure to join us next month for our reviews and discussions of the fourth book in The Craft Sequence, Last First Snow!

Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.

Alex: Is it just me, or did Kavekana have a distinctly Hawaiian feel to it?

Jenni: It’s not just you. 🙂 Just like the last book had an Aztec feel, I also got the Hawaiian vibe from this story. The name of their sacred mountain was the obvious bit the way it ends in ‘ai screams Hawaiian to me.

Alex: Glad it wasn’t just me. I liked the island setting, and some of the comments about wealthy mainlanders moving to the island felt like commentary on the current state of Hawaii.

Jenni: Also, their issue with being awash with tourists…

Alex: Yes, good point.

Marzie: Actually in the afterword, Max says it’s Hawai’i and Mordor.

Alex: Ehehehe that’s excellent.

Jenni: Mordor?? Is Kavekana’ai supposed to be Mount Doom, then?

Marzie: Yes, that’s what he implies in the afterward.

Jenni: Yeah, the big volcano where Frodo was supposed to destroy the One Ring. By throwing it into The Cracks of Doom. Kind of like how Teo threw her bracelet in…

Marzie: Good linkage! Speaking of Kavekana’ai and its pool, are idols the intermediate solution between Godless Kings and the gods?

Alex: I don’t have an answer to this. I’m still confused about how the idols work.

Jenni: This goes back to my initial point about how there’s an incredibly complex, almost mathematical structure undergirding how all these Gods, Craftspeople, idols, soulstuff, worshipers, etc interact and fit together, and I can see the shape of it, but I can’t quite see the totality of it. Which makes all of it feel a little more confusing than I want it to be.

Alex: Yeah, the description made it sound kind of like an offshore account that pays dividends? I feel like I need a degree in global economics to understand some of the nuances. But I try not to get hung up on the actual mechanics.

Jenni: Exactly – I just kind of accept it and move on. But I keep fidgeting with it because it feels like I ought to get it.

Alex: So, was anyone else surprised to find Mako was a god?

Marzie: I think I was the first time, but it’s hard to tell the second time around. I mean, I read it a year ago and remembered there was something about him that was important. But it makes sense that he, like Seril, is broken or damaged. As soon as Izza goes for him, I remembered.

Alex: Yeah, I had a similar experience. It’s been three years since I read them the first time, so most of the details have gone fuzzy. I kept bumping on his name going “What is it that I’m forgetting about you!”

Jenni: I was quite surprised. I wouldn’t think that a god would be so very under the radar. You’d think someone would sense his presence.

Marzie: The thing that puzzled me on the second readthrough was that… the island had anti-god wards, but I guess since he was a native, the island considers him part of itself?

Alex: I think the island is warded against foreign gods. They’re waiting for the native gods to come back. And since he IS a native god, he was allowed through. He just didn’t announce himself.

Jenni: Yeah, that. Also, he apparently doesn’t register much like a god. So he might not have triggered the wards, regardless. He’s…diminished in some way.

Marzie: I love how Mako loves Kai. But yeah, he’s broken.

Alex: I gotta say, I loved the image of a blind man golfing on the beach, just whacking away at balls.

Marzie: It is amusing. I want to stay away, thanks!

Jenni: It was hilarious and awesome.

Marzie: So if we are looking at the actual chronological order, this book is the end of Act 1. The books that follow this one track back to Dresediel Lex and Alt Coloumb and give us further backstories.

Alex: I can’t wait to get back to DL!

Jenni: I wanted to bring up a subject that I found disturbing – the Penitents

Alex: The Penitents were flipping CREEPY. I thought there were similar in concept to Justice, but if Justice went sadistic.

Marzie: Oh my gosh. They are one of the most searing and creepy things I’ve read. I want to ask him what his inspiration was for this horror! Seriously, more horrifying than most horror stories!

Jenni: To me, the Penitents were straight mental rape of the worst sort.

Marzie: And not just mental! The physical damage! Yikes!

Jenni: That the people were unrecognizably different people after serving their “penance” is so dreadful I don’t quite know what to do with the concept.

Marzie: Isn’t it fascinating though that Teo is not very adversely affected and can break the Penitent?

Alex: Were those scars Eagle Knight scars???

Marzie: No, I think they’re described as Quechal, not Eagle Knight. I don’t think that Temoc did protective EK spells on a sacrifice? I think they are just glyphs written in Quechal.

Alex: Aaaah. I wondered if she had gotten Eagle Knight scars from Caleb in the years between Two Serpents Rise and Full Fathom Five.

Jenni: Jace was a tragic figure to me. He meant to do the right thing and got lost.

Marzie: Jace is your typical extremist who justifies horrible actions because he believes he knows best. I feel sorry for him, but not the sorry I feel for Claude.

Alex: I spent most of the book wanting to punch Jace in the face. His patronizing “we’re doing this for your own good” drives me up the wall.

Marzie: THIS.

Jenni: I didn’t say he was sympathetic, just tragic. 😉 Agree, his attitude was annoying.

Marzie: Let’s call him an antagonist who you can feel sympathy for. Like Killmonger in Black Panther or something. I can’t even consider him a sort of anti-hero.

Jenni: But Claude, and the tortured relationship between him and Kai, were both so poignant and upsetting.

Alex: The end scene where Kai looked at Claude after being in a Penitent kind of broke my heart a little. When she saw the broken little boy inside for the first time, despite having been with him for years.

Marzie: I feel bad for Claude. In his way, he is as broken as Mako. They both love Kai, too.

Final thoughts?

Marzie: This is my favorite in the series. I still have to read Ruin of Angels but honestly this book I could read over and over and over. I love it.

Jenni: Well, I can’t have a favorite yet, since I haven’t read them all. But to me, they’re all so different so far, which is amazing considering that they’re all part of the same series and are written by the same man.

Marzie: Honestly, Max’s imagination and the quality of the writing leave me in awe. When I return to the books, like in this read-through, wow. I’m newly impressed each time.

Alex: I can’t wait until you get to Ruin. This series is one that has a lot of re-readability, and I am so glad we’re doing this buddy read. Full Fathom Five is my favorite of the three we’ve read so far, but Ruin of Angels is my favorite overall. I can’t wait to get there with you two.

Marzie: So much to look forward to!

Jenni: Yay!

I hope we’ll see you next month for our discussion of Last First Snow! 


5 thoughts on “Full Fathom Five – Max Gladstone

  1. Hello again from Slack! I loved Three Parts Dead, so I’m excited at a chance to read the rest of the series.


  2. I think Teo’s scars are from when Temoc made cuts on her wrists in preparation to sacrifice her. I wonder how she discovered that she could use them to interact with Craft/god stuff.

    I am eager for your commentary on the remaining books.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.