Book Review

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

Second book in the Divine Cities series, City of Blades continues the story of the divine and brings the reader to the uncivilised land of Voortyashtan, once home of Voortya – divinity of war and destruction. And it seems like someone thinks she may still be alive.

Similar to the first book in the series City of Stairs; City of Blades starts with a possible murder. General Turyin Mulaghesh is brought of retirement to tour the world and solve problems for President Shara. One of Shara’s trusted intelligence agents has gone missing and so Turyin must uncover all the secrets of Fort Thinadeshi is this strange and uncivilised land in order to determine the fate of Sumitra Choudry.

A fantasy story set in a world crafted in the previous story Bennett, this second installment is brilliant for very different reasons to the first. I rant and I rave about the ability of writers to build believable characters in most of my reviews, because I think it is a key part of a good book but this book makes me joyous with the depth of background and emotion each character is given. Whilst City of Stairs amazed me through it’s story and the vast world built, City of Blades managed to connect me to each and every character in such a way that I empathised with their pain.

By the time I finished the book I was left emotionally drained. I couldn’t put the book down so I was tense, scared, amazed and confused for about six or seven hours straight. Bennett’s lack of fear of killing off key characters lends to the craft of this book. As readers we are actually forced to feel true sorrow when a character which is such an integral part of Turyin’s journey is developed only to be killed accidently and therefore tragically; the death is particularly tragic because it came from one person deciding to be brave for once. With every ache and pain, every grievous memory of previous wars that Turyin has to suffer, I suffered with her.

As a portrayal of real life, the author recreates the emotions of not only how war affects the soldiers – as we see through General Mulaghesh and the soldiers in Fort Thinadeshi (e.g Pandey at the death of a loved one), he shows how the war affects the lands and the people involved. More poignantly he poses questions on how actions in war are identified and whether those who commit these acts can ever forgive their past, he focusses these thoughts through Turyin during her time in both the Battle of Bulikov and her time in the Yellow Company. And despite all the terrible things she has done and horrendous acts she has committed, we still root for Turyin because for all her flaws, Bennett shows the constant war in her head- trying to the right thing, and still keeping as many of those under her command alive. She treats them like her children and refers to them as such in many occasions.

Bringing his well planned espionage back into the fray, Bennett continues his themes of intrigue and corrupt deeds with the madness of Sumitra Choudry and the wishes of select few who wish to resurrect Voortya, or at least remnants of her power. Of course, bringing the divine of war and destruction is definitely not approved by everyone and here Turyin is key to preventing the end of all things. Above all, all she wants is to make things matter.

At a faster pace than the first book — most likely due to the reader already having a basic understanding of the world and it’s makeup — Bennett ramps up the action fairly fast, but carefully ensures that nothing is given away before time. Some clues are given but these are few and far between, leaving us as much in the dark as Turyin herself. Bennett makes sure we pay attention to all the details for fear of missing out on something vital later in the story – he doesn’t write fluff fillers in this book, everything leads or links to some other part of plot or reasoning, and so he creates a web of stories where vibrations bounce between lives.

If you enjoyed City of Stairs, then this book will only bring you further into the web of the Divine Cities series and you can join the eager crowd of those waiting for the next in installment in the series. By far a better book than the first, Bennett clearly knows when he is on to something good when the beautiful creation that was City of Stairs leads to a thrilling and capturing sequel such as City of Blades. Time to look up ways to start a campaign. We have high expectations and we want more!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

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