Review of Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

I’m not really a fan of Chris McGrath cover art. The colors are nice in this one, but I don’t like the textures he lays over everything.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone. ★★★★★

Contrary to what the name might suggest, Full Fathom Five is the third book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. However, if you haven’t read the first two, don’t worry. Each story in the series stands on its own, and you can easily read them in any order. I’d highly suggest doing so, for Full Fathom Five left me with a wild grin on my face. This isn’t a book to miss.

The ladies on the cover are the two main protagonists of Full Fathom Five. Kai’s a priestess in her firm, which creates idols to store clients belief. When Kai takes a dangerous risk to save a dying idol, she’s removed from her position and sent to work in sales. But something doesn’t add up – when she was rescuing the idol, she could swear she heard it speak, which is impossible. Also noteworthy about Kai is that she’s a trans woman – she was born into a body that didn’t fit. When she was initiated into the priesthood, she was able to change her body to match her soul.

Izza is a refugee living as a street child, but she’s getting older. Soon, she’ll be old enough that if she’s caught stealing, she’ll be forced into a Penitent – a stone body that acts as an enforcer for the police. Izza is desperate to leave before this happens, but she’s reluctant to leave behind the younger children, whom view her as a high priestess of sorts to their Blue Lady.

One of the things I really loved about Full Fathom Five was the presence of multiple awesome female characters. There’s four different women in this book who are portrayed as strong and capable, and they work together to save the day!

Besides the amazing female protagonists, my favorite thing about the book would have to be the world building. The entire story takes place upon the island of Kavekana, a setting reminiscent of Hawaii. Kavekana is an independent country that relies upon the Order, the firm to which Kai belongs, and their tourism sector to support their economy and keep their island independent. Times are changing around Kavekana. Fifty years ago, their gods rowed off to fight in the God Wars, and since then, nothing has been the same.

Full Fathom Five is a fun, rollicking ride that I’d recommend to anyone accustomed to the fantasy genre – the intense world building might be a bit hard on beginners, but is perfect for anyone looking for something outside of the usual medieval European fare. With an awesome group of female leads, a diverse cast, an intriguing plot line, and some really beautiful writing, Full Fathom Five is a must read.

Farther Reading:

Explanation of the Titles (article)

Max Gladstone’s Inspiration for the Series (article)


3 Comments Add yours

  1. voodooqueen126 says:

    Would you consider this YA? I need to write an essay about YA with diverse protagonists (and my focus is on indigenous characters)

    1. No, this isn’t YA! I’d suggest Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith (multiple protagonists, all racially diverse, and some queer), or Huntress by Melinda Lo (Chinese based fantasy with lesbian protagonists) if you want books that have both LGBTQ protagonists and racially diverse protagonists. They don’t have LGBTQ protagonists, but there’s also Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac which is a dystopian about an Apache girl or The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina which is another dystopian about an Aboriginal Australian girl.

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