Book Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of The Divine Cities
Publisher: Broadway Books (US: May 2, 2017; Jo Fletcher (UK: May 4, 2017)
Robert Jackson Bennett is back with the third installment of his Divine Cities sequence, and so ends one of the most brilliant and extraordinary fantasy series in recent times. First, we were introduced to this incredible world of Divinities and miracles in City of Stairs, joining protagonist Shara Komayd as she fearlessly stood against a god. That was soon followed by the even more impressive City of Blades, a thrilling mystery starring the indomitable General Turyin Mulaghesh. And now, with The City of Miracles focusing on the fan favorite Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, the trifecta is finally complete.
When I first read the synopsis though, my reaction was pure shock. Our beloved Shara Komayd, the character who was the glue that held this series together, dead? Surely it had to be a mistake. Or a trick. But that is indeed the way the story starts, with the news of Shara’s assassination being the catalyst that sparks Sigrud into action. For years he had been living alone in hiding, silently punishing himself for the brutal crimes he had committed. However, Shara’s murder changes everything. To avenge his dearest friend, he would return from his self-exile and risk his life to hunt down those responsible.
But the investigation soon leads Sigrud to uncover a lot more behind Shara’s death. Someone very powerful had arranged for her assassination in order to get their hands on some dangerous knowledge, for Shara had been working on a secret project right before she was killed. Not even her closest friends and allies had any idea what she was up to, but there were just enough clues left behind for Sigrud to find the next step. To his dismay, they lead him to a list, on which the name of Shara’s own daughter appears. Clearly, the girl is in danger, but no one has known the whereabouts of Tatyana Komayd since even before her mother’s assassination. Shara had made sure to keep her daughter safely hidden away from the public eye, but unfortunately, those protections are about to come under threat. To keep Taty safe, Sigrud must find her before the enemy gets to her first, but how does one keep ahead of enemy who is quite literally everywhere?
This might come as no surprise, but once again, character development was the clear standout for me. Before I continue though, I must confess, I’d never really been that taken with Sigrud. While I have nothing against the character, it has always mystified me why he is so popular. After all, it’s not like the fantasy genre is lacking in large, hulking berserker types who always come off as calm, quiet, and collected—until they are not. Sigrud is a great character, but just…nothing special. Sure, we saw slight character growth from the first book to the second, but that was still not quite enough to convince me he’s that much more than another cookie-cutter archetype. Hence this is why City of Miracles delighted me. Here, not only are we given a deeper, more intimate look into Sigrud’s inner workings, we also get to witness how he is ultimately transformed by the experience. He might have not reached Mulaghesh-levels of awesomeness, true—but I was still nonetheless impressed with the evolution of his story arc.
Next, I must praise the excellent plot. Following the trend set by the previous books, City of Miracles is another blend of fantasy and mystery, leavened with a dash of action and suspense. Calling it a revenge story might be accurate, but it also belies the complexity behind Sigrud’s mission. His hunt for Shara’s killers is only the tip of the iceberg; discovering what his old friend was up to—and how her secret project ties into the fate of Continent itself—is the real meat of this tale. The mystery is also constantly shifting into thriller territory, and one of my favorite scenes even reads like something straight out of Mission: Impossible. I love the way Bennett combines all the different themes, taking the trappings of traditional fantasy and giving them a modern makeover. The Divine aspect is also further explored in this one, and the revelations to come out of it are epic to say the least.
Of course, there’s a lot more I can say about the story, and especially about the new characters, but I’m afraid anything more would be risking spoilers. Suffice to say it was a good book, and though City of Blades still holds the distinction of being my favorite of the series, City of Miracles was certainly no slouch either. Only time will tell if the author will ever return to this world, but for what it’s worth, there’s a strong sense of closure to this one. If this is indeed the end, there’s no doubt in my mind that The Divine Cities got the send-off truly worthy of its scope, imagination, and impact. I will be looking forward to Bennett’s next project with great enthusiasm.