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Full Fathom Five
By Max Gladstone

Discussed March 2019

Buy Full Fathom Five from Amazon.com

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.
— Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Sc. II

Characters

  • Kai: idol priest on Kavekana
  • Izza: street urchin, young thief and storyteller
  • Edward Margot: poet
  • Mako: old friend of Kai
  • Claude: cop and Kai’s former boyfriend Mara: idol priest; previous supervisee of Kai
  • Jace: chief idol priest
  • Kevarian: Craftswoman
  • Teo Began: Potential client
  • Cat: fugitive and avatar of a goddess

Questions

  1. Did you read/finish the book? Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  2. From the beginning, the reader is plunged immediately into the Craft Sequence’s magical system, with the demise of the idol Seven Alpha and Kai’s attempt to save it. Magic is intimately woven into the day-to-day functioning of the world. Did you find it difficult to follow without explanation? Did you like the analogy with corporate law and business and high finance? Why or why not?
  3. Issues of social class and justice also feature prominently, with the contrast between the experiences of Izza and the street children with Kai and her friends and the use of the Penitents as tools of social control. What did you think about these aspects? Is Kavekana a paradise or something more sinister? More generally, what did you think of the world building?
  4. Apart from the rich world building, the driving forces in the narrative are the characters and their motivations. What did you think of Kai’s motivations (initially for attempting to save the idol and then later her dogged pursuit of answers)? Did you feel they made sense with her character? How about Izza and the tension between protecting the other street children and protecting herself?
  5. One reviewer noted that: “What Max Gladstone has done with Full Fathom Five is identify a trait of trans people that he deems heroic. He has then told a story that needs someone with precisely those heroic characteristics to center upon. He has written a book that is a better book because the hero is trans, while making the fact of her transition largely incidental to the story.” How did you feel about the portrayal/role of trans and queer people in the story?
  6. Transitions and transformations are a recurring motif in the novel (Kai; Izza and the street children; the idols/gods; the society of Kavekana itself in the wake of the God Wars). What did you think of Gladstone’s use of this motif? Did it hold together for you? Why or why not?
  7. The novel builds quite slowly, but then the plot accelerates markedly in the last third. There are also several twists/revelations at the end. What did you think of the overall pacing and the ending?
  8. The novel is the third novel in order of publication and the fifth in the internal chronology of the Craft Sequence by Gladstone. All the novels take place in the same world, but Full Fathom Five in particular is supposed to be standalone (although there are appearances by characters from the other novels). If you haven’t read any of the other novels, would you be interested in reading them after this? If you have, how do you like this novel compared to the others in the sequence?
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