Welcome to part four of #TheCraftBuddies buddy read of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence! For this read, I am teaming up once again with Marzie’s Reads and guest commenter, and friend of the blog, Jenni.
Last First Snow is book four in The Craft Sequence if you read the books in publication order, and the first book chronologically. We’re reading the books in publication order for this discussion.
Before we jump into the review and discussion, here’s the publisher’s synopsis:
Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation—especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods’ decaying edicts. As long as the gods’ wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill’s people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne’s work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.
As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace—or failing that, to save as many people as they can.
Last First Snow
Fair warning, our discussion beyond this point is *FULL* of spoilers.
Marzie: So Jenni, I gather your impressions of this entry in the Craft Sequence are strong ones?
Jenni: That would be one way to put it…
Alex: Oh do go on!
Jenni: There are only two adult characters in this book that I don’t actively want to strangle right now.
Marzie: I’m guessing Elayne and Mina are safe?
Jenni: Elayne yes, Mina definitely not.
Alex: Why is Mina in the hotseat?
Marzie: Yeah, why? It’s not her fault she married a nightmare. And she got rid of him.
Jenni: Well, one, yes, it is her fault she married a nightmare. Two, I wouldn’t classify Temoc as a nightmare. Three, she badly mishandled the situation, in my opinion.
Alex: I am not sure I would have reacted differently if I’d found my husband standing with a bloody knife over my son that he just carved up. Despite his own scars.
Marzie: Me, either. I think she was under the impression the bad times were over.
Jenni: Perhaps not, but she’s that world’s version of an anthropologist. And she acted like she the whole event happened out of left field, and she had no understanding of what Temoc did.
Marzie: I think she wrongly assumed that if Temoc wanted to do anything like that that it would have been discussed and Caleb could have had a chance to consent like Temoc himself had as a teen.
Jenni: And did anything in her behavior facilitate that discussion? Encourage Temoc to be open with her about what was going on with him? What was he thinking/feeling?
Alex: I don’t think Temoc himself wanted to do what he did to Caleb until the moment that he did it. I’m not sure there was room for discussion.
Jenni: I don’t think he wanted to do it even AS he did it.
Alex: I agree with that – but that circles back to: when would there have been room to discuss that with Mina?
Marzie: I just think Temoc was trying to be covert in his thinking about whether or not to rejoin the rebels in the square and not sharing his thinking with Mina. She can’t be faulted for what he didn’t tell her and what he did without any of them consenting to it.
Jenni: Well, I think there was plenty of blame to go all the way around in that relationship. Nobody was right there.
Alex: I agree that there’s blame on both sides. She spent a lot of time studying the things Temoc did without really supporting them.
Marzie: To me, she looked at them with the cold remove of an academician. It was like theory instead of reality. The reality was horrifying.
Alex: So, if not Mina, who is the other adult you don’t want to strangle?
Jenni: The other adult who escapes my wrath, for the most part, is Chel.
Alex: Chel? Hmm. I can see that, actually.
Marzie: Really? I was angry at Chel. For pressing Temoc to fight, even though I think she was right that he needed to lead. He committed to being their leader in the negotiation and then pretty much abandoned them for a time.
Jenni: I was angry that she was the instrument that lured Temoc back into this asinine fight, but from her position and outlook, it was the only reasonable thing she could do. It wasn’t right for Temoc (I don’t think, he might disagree, because he’s a dumbass), but from Chel’s point of view, it was right for her cause.
Marzie: The whole book makes me understand Caleb so much better. I actively dislike both Temoc and the King in Red.
Jenni: I really actively despise the King in Red.
Alex: It was interesting to me juxtaposing Last First Snow and Two Serpents Rise. If you read them chronologically, and not in publication order, you’d read LFS and then TSR. So you’d see Temoc’s POV first and then move into Caleb’s. In LFS, Temoc isn’t as much as a villain as he is in TSR. He’s almost heroic here. In TSR the best you can say is that he’s an antagonist….
Jenni: I very much saw him as a greek-style tragic hero. Undone by his character flaws and outside circumstances.
Marzie: Yes, it would be very different experience reading this book before Two Serpents. I don’t find Temoc heroic. He’s an unstable leader. He fails both those he leads and his family by not making decisions and sticking to them. Though I see him as a kind of anti-hero rather than a villain like the Red King.
Jenni: I never perceived him as a villain, not even in TSR.
Alex: I think Caleb does, in TSR.
Jenni: Oh, no doubt, but even then, without having read LFS, I could tell that Caleb didn’t see his father clearly, but rather through the distorting lens of some very old, very profound hurt. And who really sees their parents clearly, anyway?
Marzie: Yes, I think so, too. But I also don’t think Caleb knows the depths of the awfulness of the Red King. His company Two Serpents is the subsidiary of a monster’s corporation.
Alex: The King in Red is honestly one of my favorite villains ever. He’s just so ABSURD. He is literally just bones and starlight, and he is such a comical image and such an emotional decision maker.
Marzie: He’s an amusing image that makes horrible, vengeful decisions no matter the cost. I wonder if Timas would be happy with what his lover has done with his grief?
Jenni: I was so angry and horrified that I couldn’t appreciate the comic absurdity. It’s like when a beautiful man is a horrible jerk. He ceases to be beautiful – his personality kills it.
Alex: That’s fair. He’s much more comical in other books. In this one he’s pretty terrible – especially when he’s basically ESPN style narrating the literal deaths of his subjects with glee.
Marzie: The scene with Purcell was kind of funny. Except for the awful, evil plan hatched there. Yes, the narration was truly a vile, reality TV-like aspect here.
Alex: I think this is the most horrifying of the books so far. There doesn’t feel like there was a victory at the end. Just a stalemate. And that’s part of why it’s my least favorite of the series.
Jenni: Oh, without doubt. Everybody loses and everybody sucks except Elayne, and there’s no resolution.
Marzie: Yes, this was a Pyrrhic victory.
Alex: I love, love, loved that we got a LOT of Elayne and her backstory here. AND we got an age for her. She was 57 in this book, and we got to hear about her past and what she went through to get to where and who she is now.
Marzie: I’m mad that Temoc is on the cover of this book and NOT Elayne. When do we get a book with Elayne on the cover? I want to ask Max that. She’s really the core of the series.
Jenni: Since I read e-books, I’m pretty supremely indifferent to and unaware of book covers.
Alex: They are GORGEOUS Chris McGrath covers. I was so sad then Ruin of Angels didn’t get the same cover treatment. (Though I do love the RoA cover.)
Marzie: Well, the first five were. Not too happy with Tor.com deciding to go with the different look, either. BTW, Chris McGrath does the Toby Daye book covers. An amazing artist. Every year for the Hugos I nominate him.
Jenni: *whooshing sound as this part of the conversation sails over my head 😉 *
Head over to Marzie’s Reads for part two of our discussion and a giveaway of a kindle version of Last First Snow. Be sure to join us next month for our reviews and discussions of the fifth book in The Craft Sequence, Four Roads Cross!