“Where does that leave us? he prayed. What can we do in the face of fear?
What else, came the whispered reply, but love and trust.“
The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.
As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.
CW: nudity, gore, body horror, violence, smoking, loss of a loved one, human trafficking, child abuse, addiction, drug use, alcoholism, animal death, rape mention, sex scene
Reading Four Roads Cross after this ride through the Craft Sequence has, in short, felt like coming home. While not last in the in-universe timeline (that honor goes to the stellar Full Fathom Five), it is last in publication order for this first arc of the Craft Sequence, and it feels fitting to return to Alt Coulumb for the end.
It’s not quiet the murder mystery Three Parts Dead was, leaning more towards a race against the clock to succeed in court, but I LOVED coming back to Tara, Abelard, Cat, and even Raz the vampirate. Having read Full Fathom Five before this, I knew there was going to be something drastic happening in Alt Coulumb with its gods, but nothing could have prepared me for exactly what unfurled.
I will admit, though, that this one does seem to suffer from Max Gladstone’s tendency to let the first half spool out slowly. The action in the latter half, especially the sacrifices and triumphs, has more impact as a result, but you have to be willing to get through the slow start.
That start aside, though, Four Roads Cross was IMMENSELY satisfying. The return to familiar faces and places was a perfect cap on the series, and the new cast members held their ground, forming important cornerstones in subplots that made themselves something greater by the book’s end. From a character standpoint, everyone followed excellent arcs that leave room for future Craft Sequence cameos without feeling unfulfilled. We also saw familiar faces from Two Serpents Rise, and how they’ve moved along in the world since the events in Dresediel Lex.
I especially loved how Seril came to the forefront in this installment. She was already interesting in Three Parts Dead, but to see her growing in power, to see her faith spreading and her devotion to her believers growing as well, it made me all the more interested in her. She also represents for Tara a crossroads between Craft and faith, two mutually exclusive things in this world, and I adore that complication she introduces. Add to it that she’s a fundamentally compassionate goddess, and I end up completely fascinated.
And I have to say something for the prose, while I’m at it. Max Gladstone has a truly fantastic way with words, somehow describing that which really seems like it should be beyond mortal grasp. Those things within mortal grasp, though, he also has a particular magic with, and there’s one scene with Tara and a dragon that struck a chord with me in a way I can’t yet define. There was something quiet and yet cinematic about it, a quality of writing that’s hard to capture.
I’m in awe of the Craft Sequence, simply put. I look forward to the new arc Ruin of Angels will usher in, and I admire the incredible legwork the series has done so far to build a complicated, magical world. I love the characters, the fullness of their stories without leaving them no further room to grow, and I love the plots, the danger and the grand solutions that spring out of them.
It’s a complicated series in the best way, and I look forward to every future installment.