Dead Country by Max Gladstone – ARC Review!

Since her village chased her out with pitchforks, Tara Abernathy has resurrected gods, pulled down monsters, averted wars, and saved a city, twice. She thought she’d left her dusty little hometown forever. But that was before her father died.

As she makes her way home to bury him, she finds a girl, as powerful and vulnerable and lost as she once was. Saving her from the raiders that haunt the area, twisted by a remnant of the God Wars, Tara changes the course of the world.

Dead Country is the first book in Gladstone’s new Craft War series, and set in the same world as his previous craft series, though you don’t need to have read that to understand the events in this book. It’s a story about grief & about how you can run from the place you grew up but it will always have a hold on you. Tara Abernathy would never return to her childhood home under any other circumstances, but her father’s died, and the small minded people she grew up with aren’t going to stop her from seeing him buried. On her journey home she finds a young girl who has access to the craft and saves her from certain death, a girl who will irrevocably change Tara and potentially the world, but Tara has to save her hometown first.

Tara Abernathy is a character I instantly bonded with. Someone carrying the unbearable weight of grief, as well as the weight of the world on her shoulders… literally. She is someone who has grown through trauma, first being chased from the only home she knew and then in the school where she learnt her craft. She is reliant on herself first and foremost and isn’t someone who shows weakness easily, but once home she finds the walls she has carefully built around herself are wavering. Snarky, sarcastic and certainly not someone to shy away from a fight, she is the kind of MC that I adore, but she also has a softer side, one we see come out the more time she spends with Dawn, the girl she found, and her mother, a side that knows what Dawn is going through and doesn’t want this girl to go through the same trauma’s that plague Tara’s nightmares.

For the first book. Gladstone keeps our cast fairly tight knit. We spend the most time with Tara, Dawn and Connor, a boy that grew up in Edgemont alongside Tara with other villagers making appearances throughout. Through them, Gladstone shows the danger of small minds and how they fear and distrust anything they class as ‘different,’ but when the time comes, they rely on Tara to get themselves out of danger. There are characters you will like and others you will hate, but they all play a part in the telling of Gladstones story.

The magic system was extremely in depth, and I enjoyed being able to learn about it through Tara’s teachings to Dawn. I’m not even going to try and describe it because it is a lot and one of the most intricate magic systems I have ever read, and I do feel it’s going to be a system that I will get clearer on the more time I spend in this world. Everything from the Lore and history of the world was expertly woven into the plot, and it was used, not only to give us an insight into Tara’s world, how the craft came about, but also used as both an emotional and plot driving device. Though we do spend the majority of this story in Edgemont and it’s surrounding area, thanks to Tara’s travels we do learn a lot about the world ‘outside’ of her hometown and I loved the blend of modern and historical that Gladstone brings to his world. There are Dragons and Golums as well as creatures I’ve never heard of, and I can’t wait to continue the series and get a deeper dive into all the world building we got in this book.

Knowing that there are more books out there set in the same world has made me incredibly eager to get my hands on them. Once I find a world and magic system that I enjoy I crave all the information I can get my hands one, so you can bet I will be picking up Gladstone’s other craft books, hopefully before the next book in this series comes out. Having not read them, I can’t comment whether it would be beneficial to read them before starting this series, I can however say that you have to be a bit willing to go in blind and be ok with getting some rather large quantities of information thrown at you. The story ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, so I’m excited and pretty desperate to see what happens next.

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