& Review: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Broadway Books January 2016

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Broadway Books January 2016

The Book Itself: I’m liking the covers for this series. There’s a larger symbol having to do with the Divine characters in the novel (in this case Voortya’s sword), and then below that, there is a surprisingly detailed image of the city the book is set in. This one really helped me visualize Voortyashtan and the harbor construction. Plus the whole thing just looks really cool.

My Review: 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.
Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.  
At least, it makes the perfect cover story.
The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.
The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero

I fell in absolute, unexpected book-love with Bennett’s City of Stairs (although I cringe when I re-read my review – what was I drinking when I wrote that thing? It’s so scatterbrained!) It was recommended by a friend and even though I didn’t love the description, I started in on it. And it’s a book that hooks you, drops you in this world and this mystery, and doesn’t let you out of its grip. I may have shed a tear when I saw that the sequel wasn’t out for another year or so.

But here we are, with City of Blades. And yes, I had to re-read City of Stairs. I remembered the bare bones of the story (Sigrud battles a giant water monster! Some gods come back to life!), but re-reading it just cemented the memory of how much I loved it. And it was nice to slide right into the sequel.

This one follows Mulaghesh – the stern battle general who stood by Shara’s side in the Battle of Bulikov. She (spoiler alert!) lost an arm and is “retired” in the seaside village she always wanted…and she’s pretty miserable. Enter Pitry (anyone else think about Land Before Time? Anyone?), with a note from good old Shara, pulling Mulaghesh back into service. And where does she send the embattled war veteran? The city that used to be focused solely on war and violence, of course (a little cruel, Shara…).

Enter another mysterious disappearance…enter clues that the Divine isn’t dead…enter our best pal Sigrud. And you’ve got another amazing story.

It’s a decidedly darker tone than the first book, which wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in to begin with. Mulaghesh is a former soldier with physical and emotional wounds that run very deep. The moments where she would come to a realization about her military past, where she would become so broken up about the concept of war and the acts she committed in the name of it, were incredibly emotional. I think they would affect any reader, and I honed in on them because I happen to love someone in the military – those feelings and memories are highly personal and incredibly loaded with emotions of every kind. I think it was handled very well in the book.

I love the way both books have dealt with the central mystery: the beginning of the book puts you knee-deep in the mystery, but the book soon boomerangs you into a storyline so much wildly bigger than that mystery, that you don’t really mind that it took a backseat for a while. This time, it’s a researcher sent into Voortyashtan who has disappeared. And she went absolutely bonkers before she did so. There’s another mystery about a power conductive substance that they are mining for in the city, hints at the Divine (which is a much bigger deal in this one, as Voortya was one chick you didn’t want to mess with as a god), and of course, twists abound.

Sigrud is back, but he also takes that backseat, allowing Mulaghesh to really shine. When I read that this book wouldn’t feature Shara or even Sigrud as heavily as the first book did, I was wary. But I came away loving Mulaghesh on an equal level.

The description alone for the next book, City of Miracles is a doozy (AND SIGRUD IS THE MAIN CHARACTER! HUZZAH!). I will be tapping my toes impatiently for January 5th, 2017 to come along, because I cannot wait to read it!

My Grade: A


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