‘Four Roads Cross’ by Max Gladstone- Highly Recommended High Fantasy Courtroom Drama

Initial Rating: Highly Recommended  (How I Rate Books)

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Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, Alternate Earth, High Fantasy, Craft Sequence, Fiscal Fantasy

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Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • Fantastic, poignant conclusion to the series (Or is it? I honestly don’t know, I haven’t read ‘Ruin of Angels’ yet)
    • COURTROOM DRAMA WIZARD DUEL!
    • Characters get their chance to shine
    • The author did a good job with foreshadowing, but in such a subtle way that I didn’t guess the conclusion.
  • Mixed
    • Follows narratively hot on the heels of ‘Three Parts Dead’ and ‘Two Serpents Rise.’ As a result this really doesn’t shine on it’s own. You need to read the previous books in the series to get the full oomph out of this. But that oomph is amazing!
  • Cons
    • The freed slaves protagonists never really impacted the narrative or climax (at least in a way I found compelling). I think they could have been safely cut from the book entirely.

 

The Craft Sequence is an amazing series. In a world where gods exist because people believe in them and wizards have power due to ontological contracts with eldritch horrors, magic has a decidedly lawyer-like spin on it. Wizards sell their souls to eldritch powers, a debt which must be paid back in full in life or in undeath… unless you use your lawyer education to find loopholes in your soul-selling contract so you don’t have to pay them at all.

Tara Abernathy is a bright new star in the world of Craftsmen (Craftsmen = Witchcraft Lawyers). After defeating her old master DeNovo and resurrecting not one but two dead gods, she could go get a job as a witch-lawyer anywhere. Instead, she chose the unglamorous position of being the on-call lawyer for those two gods she just saved, a job which does not pay well (but it has good government benefits!). The job might not pay well, but she appreciates the fact that she’s making a substantially good difference for many people’s lives.

However things get bad when a reporter discovers the secret behind the resurrections. When that secret is revealed to the world, all the world’s other witchcraft lawfirms are coming to smite down the two freshly resurrected gods. Their only defense is lone Tara. She may be the hot new lawyer on the planet, but with dozens of law firms employing hundreds of both living and undead lawyers, she has no chance.

But she’s not alone. The protagonists from the previous books in the series show up to help her, including The King in Red and Caleb Altemoc of ‘Last First Snow’ and ‘Two Serpents Rise,’ and Abelard and Kat and Raz from ‘Three Parts Dead.’ With their help, and Tara’s wily understanding of witchcraft-law, she just might find a loophole to save her gods from being made into mincemeat in the Court of Craft (aka Wizard Duel).

Plot: Fun. Like seriously, go read it.

Pacing: Slow start, and the freed slave characters in this book bog it down a bit. While they are well written, the book would have been snappier if they weren’t included.

Characters: I liked the antagonists of Daphonie and Miss Ram, the Enemy Councils who are suing Tara’s clients. I’m not spoiling anything, but they are two extremely well written characters. The pair of them take the trope of bloodthirsty, power-hungry lawyers to it’s supernatural extremes. My one quibble with them is that I wished they had a final trick up their sleeves at the end of the book to make Tara REALLY scramble.

Also, I wish Abelard got a smidge more character building. I liked his arc from beginning to end, but I would have enjoyed some more time for him in the sun. I wanted to get to know more about the morality and philosophy of Kos-ism and Seril-ism, but we never got more than the surface of their religions.

This is a good book, made great by all the returning characters and cameos from previous books in the series. I suggest you read this series, starting with ‘Last First Snow,’ then ‘Two Serpents Rise,’ then ‘Three Parts Dead’ then finally this ‘Four Roads Cross.’ After that you can read ‘Full Fathom Five.’ (Aka 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) This isn’t the order in which they were published, but I think this is probably the best reading order. I haven’t read ‘The Ruin of Angels’ yet so I don’t know where it goes in the reading order.

While this isn’t the best book in the series in my opinion (I like Last First Snow best), this was very fun, provides deep worldbuilding and good characterization.

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