City of Blades – The Divine Cities #2 – Robert Jackson Bennett
Release date: January 7th, 2016
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain of the goddess of death, war, and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin. General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?
I adored City of Stairs and was very excited to see what the second book, City of Blades, would add to the story. City of Blades reads very separate from City of Stairs, following General Turyin Mulaghesh to a remote and brutal part of the continent, Voortyashtan. There, Saypur together with the Dreylings is trying to build a harbour, which would mean easy access to the Continent for them all. I was very excited to read that we would explore more of the Continent and this time through the eyes of General Mulaghesh. I have to admit I was also cheering when I heard Sigrud would make another appearance.
Five years have passed since the events in City of Stairs and Shara’s position in Saypur is getting weaker and weaker. General Mulaghesh has retired for unknown reasons to a cottage on an island, but Saypur is not done with her yet. Shara sends for her and convinces her to do one last mission for her. Under cover of doing a short tour in one of the Saypuri Army’s forts to complete the expected time of serving to get her full pension, Shara wants her to investigate the discovery of a new, mysterious ore in Voortyashtan.
Knowing what Shara and Mulaghesh went through in Bulikov, it’s not really a surprise she wants to make sure nothing Divine is going on there.
I already liked General Mulaghesh in City of Stairs, but I completely fell in love with her character in this sequel. We already know she is clever, tough and to the point, but in City of Blades we learn more about her past and what shaped her to be the person she is now. This immediately set the tone for the rest of the book, with war and especially the crimes of war as an undercurrent for this story. Mulaghesh’s past and the way she’s only now, so many years later, grasping what she really did, gives us a heartbreaking and rather painful narrative. What she sees and encounters in Voortyashtan confronts her with what happened when she was 16 years old and this time she really has to come to terms with it, but it tears her apart.
The Saypuri soldiers stationed in Voortyashtan have grown to hate the locals and when events take a turn for the worse, they are set on a war with the Voortyastani. Mulaghesh, caught up in the remnants of the promises of one of the Divine, sees that this is not the solution and can potentially destroy everything. It is testament to Bennett’s writing style that at this point I literally wanted to punch someone. I hate feeling powerless and Bennett had me so enveloped in the story I wanted to shout at the characters.
Not only Mulaghesh’s buried vulnerability gets attention in City of Blades. Like I said, Sigrud shows up in Voortyashtan and though deep down he is still the same, his role in the world has changed quite a bit. He’s the Dauvekind, as close as you can get to royalty among the Dreylings, and after all the years in prison and at Shara’s side, he has now finally returned to his estranged family. All these different elements he’s so unfamiliar with bring him to Voortyashtan. It was amazing to see Mulaghesh, broken by her past, and Sigrud, uncertain about everything happening to him, come together and find peace in what they know best: solving the mysterious events that have been happening in Voortyashtan. These two make an amazing duo.
Bennett also returns to the Divine, who have been killed years ago and all their miracles banned from the Continent. Though it is not to the extent like we saw in City of Stairs, I was still astonished by this interpretation of the Divine and what they built. Through Bennett’s vivid writing history and all the places and objects that are left from that time period really come to life.
City of Blades has really left an impression and however much I try to write I feel like I can’t do the book enough justice. It is with mixed feelings that I post this review, as I feel it doesn’t reflect enough how amazing this book is. It spoke to me on an emotional level, far more than most books have ever done. It is so much more than just another Fantasy novel with Gods, war and mystery. It is so much more. I guess there’s only one thing that I can say quite clearly and that is that you should read this book. 2016 has had a strong start with City of Blades and I wonder if there will be another book in the next 12 months that can compete with it. Now go and buy City of Stairs and City of Blades!