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Dead Country, by Max Gladstone

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author is a friend.

How do we teach better than we were taught? When we’ve won free of an abusive system or person (or both), how do we make sure that we don’t revert to the things we were taught and create the same situation all over again for our student (child, nibling, other younger person)? I’m now finding it astonishing that more books don’t deal with this question as centrally as Dead Country, because it’s pretty crucial to progress. It would behoove us to think more about it. So here’s Max, thinking more about it, to the tune of at least one book. I am pleased.

So here we have–pleasant surprise!–Tara Abernathy again. Not precisely older and wiser, but certainly informed by her experiences in previous Craft novels. Except now she’s on her way home, because–and this is not a spoiler, it happens right away–her dad has died. (Note: if you are the daughter of a strong marriage who is still grieving her dad, this one will hit hard in places.) She loved her father fiercely. The rest of her hometown? eh. Not so much.

And on the way there, she’s picked up an apprentice, Dawn, a teenager whose voracious appetite for learning reminds Tara of herself. Which puts her in the role of…

Best not to think about that now. (She cannot not think about that now.) Because there are raiders at the gates, and her old neighbors are, shall we say, only variably glad to see her, and only variably interested in accepting her help.

So yeah. There’s a lot packed into this short volume. A lot of consequence, and this is very much first in a series–there are places yet to go with these ideas, and I can’t wait to get there. The marketing materials indicate that this is meant to be a good entry point for this series, and I totally agree. If you already know Tara, hurrah, more Tara. If you don’t, her characterization here is clear and interesting, entirely enough to go on. Highly recommended, regardless of whether you’ve enjoyed all the other Craft novels or never picked up a one.

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