Author: Robert Jackson Bennett | Publisher: Jo Fletcher
A generation ago the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions. But that was then. Now the god is dead and the city lies in ruins, a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
So it makes perfect sense for General Turyin Mulaghesh, foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumoured war criminal, ally of embattled Prime Minister Shara Komayd, to be exiled here – but she’s not just eking out her days in this hellhole till retirement. She’s on one final mission, to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone AWOL.
The trouble is, that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero . . .
I read the first book in The Divine Cities trilogy, City of Stairs, quite some time ago now. I thoroughly enjoyed it – and then promptly forgot all about the whole series. Another blogger (I’m afraid I forget who, but it was you then please pipe up!) mentioned it, and I remembered I’d intended to finish the series. I’m so glad I did, because the second book, City of Blades, was just as brilliant as the first!
City of Stairs was notable for me because of the depth and unusual character of its worldbuilding. City of Blades builds on that same world and adds another dimension. Like a map gradually being unfolded in front of you, in which you can zoom in and out. The descriptions and sense of place are evocative, tantalisingly tangible. And laced with hints of a rich cultural heritage that is remarkable and ambitious in its completeness. Reading the series is a total holiday from reality, like stepping into another world.
City of Blades sees the return of two old favourites: the troubled, but rather scrumptious Sigrud, and, surprisingly, General Turyin Mulaghesh. Mulaghesh had more of a supporting than a starring role in City of Stairs, so I was surprised to see her front and centre in the sequel. A character with deep emotional scars and a unpalatable history, I found her compelling and very human. The story picks up where City of Stairs left off and I was pleased to revisit old friends and find out what became of them.
Just like the first book, City of Blades does what the best of high fantasy should do, and, besides providing the reader with much needed escapism, takes the big themes out, unfolds and examines them. The central theme of City of Blades would seem to me to be the nature of war and peace. Seen from the perspective of an old soldier, who has seen more than her fair share of war and been called upon to commit unspeakable acts, it’s makes for thought-provoking reading. What is the function of war? Of a soldier? What is peace? And, on a more personal level, how do we forgive ourselves for the wrongs we commit in the name of love and service?
I adored City of Blades. It was fast paced, tense, and action packed, with twists and turns aplenty to keep the reader on their toes. If you liked City of Stairs, you won’t be disappointed by its sequel. However, I don’t think it would work well as a standalone; there’s just too much history and backstory woven into the characters and plot. So if you’re interested, I recommend you go back and start with City of Stairs.
If you’re interested in The Divine Cities trilogy, you can read my review for the first book in the series, City of Stairs, here.