Book Review: City of Blades

To say that I waited eagerly for the sequel to City of Stairs (reviewed by me here: http://sett.com/thereadingdesk/book-review-city-of-stairs) is an understatement. So captivating, so enticing, was this world created by Robert Jackson Bennett, that I found myself returning to it over and over again. Taking the high bar set by its predecessor, City of Blades not only crosses it with spectacular ease.

The second book in the Divine Cities series, City of Blades is set five years after the events of the first book. Shara Thivani, now Shara Komayd is the Prime Minister of Saypur, and is battling political forces that put her policies and work in a spot of uncertainty. Sigrud, having returned to his country and having secured freedom for his people, is now the Chancellor of the newly formed United Dreyling States. The story comes alive however, through the eyes of the cynical General Turyin Mulaghesh, who having rejected her position in the Saypuri Military Council, has retired to a a hermit’s life on the seaside.

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The book begins with Turyin being forced out of retirement by Shara, with a mysterious message, “Make it matter.” Turyin is asked to go to Vorrtyashtan (city of Voortya, the Continental deity of war and death) , is what is ostensibly a temporary posting. In reality, she has been sent by Shara on an unofficial secret mission to investigate the disappearance of Sumitra Choudhary –an officer sent to investigate a miraculous new ore found in Voortyashtan.  To add to Turyin’s discomfort, heading the Saypuri military stationed at Voortyashtan, is Lalith Biswal, Turyin’s commanding officer during the infamous “Yellow March”, which years ago ensured Saypuri dominance over the Continent, and an atrocity that Saypur refuses to acknowledge ever happened. Joining Turyin’s quest are Sigrud and his daughter Signe.

Bennett as usual excels in painting crystal clear word pictures. The writing is exciting and magnetic. The world building is flawless. The book, while understandably darker, owing to the subject material, does not become depressing or heavy, staying true to the style of the first book. While it begins it a bit slowly, it picks up the pace and then the pages fly past. Bennett’s biggest strength is the ability to weave philosophy and other heavier themes into the narrative without making it seem tiresome and boring. In City of Blades, ideas of the afterlife, of the necessity for war (or lack thereof), the ethics of war, etc. are seamlessly integrated with the plot.

My only complaints would be having too less of Shara and Sigrud. Their teaming was one of the things that I really enjoyed about City of Stairs, and I missed it here. Sigrud, while he appears prominently, is in my opinion underutilized. To some extent the story requires this, but the flashes of the Sigrud we know are too few.

While the book works well even as a standalone, it is the connection to the mythology and history outlined in City of Stairs that is its true strength. However, there isn’t much of that for the new reader. The history and mythology of Voortyashtan while explained completely, are somewhat disconnected here from the larger mythology of the Continent and its history. A page at the beginning, with a map of the Continent, Saypur and The United Dreyling States, with a line or two about the deities and their roles, would have acted both as an introduction for new readers and a refresher for those following the series.

Once again, Bennett spins a fascinating tale, drawing the reader into this world of Gods and warriors. Here’s hoping that the next book in the series is just as good.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

Author Bio: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/177470/robert-jackson-bennett/

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