Read Along: Full Fathom Five, Week 1

Banner by Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings
Banner by Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings

A new week, a fresh new Read Along (apologies for this post being a bit late)! This time around we’re returning to the world of Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence novels with the third entry in the series, Full Fathom Five. Our host this week is Allie at Tethyan Books, and we’re covering chapters 1 to 13. There’s a familiar face in this opening section, as well as some rather unnerving new … features? Characters? Ideas? I’m not quite sure how to put it, but I’m sure we’ll get to that. For now, SPOILER WARNING!

Let’s get questionable…

Full Fathom Five

Kai kicks off the story by risking her life in an attempt to save the idol Alpha Seven. Why do you think she chose to try? Do you think idols truly non-sentient?

This was a really interesting starting point, and I think it’s a really good point for discussion – how fine is the line between creating something and giving it life? I think in this case, it might be a very fine line indeed. There’s clearly something more to the idols than just non-sentient devices of faith, if that’s the right way to put it… Whether that ‘something more’ is an intentional consequence, I don’t know. I doubt it, of course, but then playing with life forces would make for much more boring stories if everybody had all the answers…

As for why Kai chose to try to save Seven Alpha, this also ties into that question of sentience, I think. It’s harder to feel nothing for something you know, beyond a doubt, isn’t alive and can’t feel anything itself. Kai’s attempt to save the idol tells me that she has a grasp of conscience, or at least of consequence, while her colleagues apparently don’t. That said, there’s a difference between Kai having doubts where the idols are concerned, and her being a bleeding-heart type. She’s already quite a complicated character, I think, and that makes her more interesting.

I think this is the first time we’ve seen idols, and they have their similarities and differences to gods and craftsmen. Do you think they serve a useful purpose? If you were in this world, would you prefer faith, Craft, or idols?

I think they do serve a purpose. Whether “useful” is the right word for it or not, I’m not so sure yet. “Potentially dangerous” might be better – I mean, having something in your possession with a level of power akin to the gods is surely asking for trouble. But we’ll see, on that score…

If I was in this world, I’m pretty sure I’d be doing everything possible to avoid too much association with any of those three, given what we’ve seen of them so far! Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m generally not a religious person at all, but I do think there’s a difference between religion and faith, or at least belief. That’s getting into fine differences, maybe, but I guess if I had to choose one it’d be Craft. There seems to be more in the way of personal control of the power it involves, which is a reassurance I don’t think the other two offer as much of… Plus, I admit I’d be curious about how it works. Craft is most like magic, and magic intrigues the hell out of me, so I’d be likely to go for that.

I found it interesting that priests/priestesses are able to change or reform their bodies in the pool, during their initiation. If it were possible, would you want to make use of this power or not?

This is definitely an interesting idea, and so far I love how Gladstone has made an example, with Kai, of just how far one can go with the reforming. As for the question – most likely yes. No one is perfect, and there are a lot of things I’d probably change, or at least want to improve, about myself. My short-sightedness and poor hearing would be first to get a fix, I expect! So yes, I’d probably jump at the chance – provided it was safe enough, of course…

[WARNING – the following question contains mild(ish) spoilers for Three Parts Dead. If you haven’t read that yet, you may want to skip ahead!]

A few familiar faces show up from Three Parts Dead, Cat and Ms. Kevarian! Is this how you would have expected them to be living, after the events of that novel?

First of all, I love that these two are the ones who turn up again here! They were two of the characters who fascinated me most in that book, so I am loving the chance to see more of them.

It doesn’t surprise me much to see Ms. Kevarian apparently living the self-sufficient life here, though I *will* be surprised if there isn’t more to what she’s up to here than there appears to be. As for Cat, I’m a bit more worried for her, for obvious reasons. That said, she already seems to be behaving more reliably than she did previously. Her general lot in life may not have improved much, but maybe her attitude has? We shall see…

Izza is in a difficult situation; she wants to take care of the other street children, but she also wants to protect herself. What do you think of how she is attempting to meet both goals? Do you think she was right to stop leading the stories and rituals for the other children?

Izza is another character here that definitely interests me. Bless her, she tries to be tough with the love, but it looks like the love is getting its own way more than she’d like…

I think in a lot of ways, she has her priorities in good order. She’s doing her best to take care of the kids, but she feels that filling their heads with stories and wild ideas about the goodness of the gods is the wrong thing to do. They’re better off looking after themselves, which is undeniably true given their circumstances, but my concern is that Izza might end up with nobody there to look after her, and everybody needs somebody. There’s a song about it and everything. (And FYI, yes, I just earwormed myself. God dammit.)

Ahem! Anyway. Izza. I think that whatever she does from here will be interesting – provided she survives that encounter with the Penitent.

On that note, can I just take a moment to say WHAT THE HELL. It takes a pretty twisted damned mind to come up with those things as a method of REHABILITATION. Sweet baby Jebus, they’re creepy!

There is a lot that is hinted near the end of this section, with the line “Howl, Bound World” and the poet Edmond Margot. What do you think it is that ties together Seven Alpha, Kai, Izza, and Margot?

Oh, Mr Gladstone. If there’s one thing I am learning to count on these books for, it’s a level of intrigue that pushes the “what the hell?!” factor off the bloody scale…

(Also, I would like to nominate “Howl, bound world” for the Most Unsettling Line Ever award.)

I think there’s so very much about this little knot of characters that we’ve still to discover, but I definitely think there’s something worth noting about the way Margot is evidently doing what Kai refused to do, when he goes after Izza following her capture by the Penitent. We know that Kai wanted to help, might actually be able to, and refused to. For understandable reasons. Margot… doesn’t strike me as the likeliest hero ever, let’s face it. But he’s clearly more compelled to get involved. For reasons? *Eyes the author*

So, yeah. Whatever’s going on with this foursome, I have no real idea. Yet. But by all the gods born or manufactured, I’m in.


Here are some links to posts by my fellow group-readers:

Ria at Bibliotropic

Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings

Wendy at The Bibliosanctum

Heather at The Bastard Title

Allie at Tethyan Books

Lynn at Little Lion Lynnet’s



4 thoughts on “Read Along: Full Fathom Five, Week 1

  1. Your ‘Lean on Me’ line (If that wasn’t the song you meant to reference, its the one that is now stuck in my head, anyway!), reminds me of Cat telling Izza that it’s okay for people to need each other sometimes. I hadn’t really thought of her rejection of the stories as a way of trying to teach the kids to be self-reliant, and had been seeing it as her rejection of being their leader. That makes sense though, and I think that would be useful for them to learn. I really hope Izza doesn’t end this story in a Penitent, though.

  2. Reading over everyone’s comments, the first question is also starting to remind me of the question of artificial intelligence and the ethics around the creation of that. What if the idols are a (rudimentary) new sentience and people are trying to keep it quiet because reasons?

    I liked Izza! I’m reasonably sure she’ll survive the encounter with the Penitent because, at least so far. Gladstone hasn’t been the kind of author to introduce us to a pov character and then murder them in the middle of the plot. Also Cat’s got to have been fighting those Penitents for a reason and she seems to have taken Izza under her wing, so to speak, so perhaps this will be a way for Cat and Margot to meet. I guess we’ll find out some answers soon!

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