Review: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

91xkKHcL6VL When I made the resolution to be healthy at the end of last year, I didn’t mean to let yoga and barre take over my life. I have actually been reading (though not as fast as I’d like), but not writing or revising as much as I thought. On the other hand, my happiness levels remain delightfully high, which I’m taking as a win. Anyway, I promise there will be more things on this blog in the near future—and to start, here’s a book review.

When City of Blades showed up on NetGalley I felt somewhat obligated to read it for review since I reviewed the first book in the series here as well. And I’ll admit, I felt a little apprehensive about this book since the first was difficult for me to get into at first—even though I ultimately ended up liking it a lot. But spoilers for the rest of this review: I liked this book a lot too. Maybe even better than the first one.

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’ll be honest: most of my apprehension about this book stemmed from Turyin Mulaghesh being the main POV character. Not because she wasn’t a perfectly fine character in City of Stairs, but because I really enjoyed Shara from the first book. Mulaghesh honestly wasn’t that memorable compared to Shara and Sigrud. Which, in its own way, makes her a great character to follow through a sequel. I imagine that writing a character with a disability like her’s—she’s missing an arm—could be a really interesting challenge for a writer who doesn’t have the same disability, but I thought that Robert Jackson Bennet did a good job with that. I never once forgot what challenges Mulaghesh overcame in her journey through each day, but neither was it constantly shoved in the face of the reader. I found myself liking her more than I thought I would—though a big part of that is her cussed stubbornness and the sheer amount of complaining she does before getting shit done.

My overall impression of the first book is that it had a fair amount of politicking, while at its core being a sort of spy thriller. And while City of Blades definitely has a similar formula, it felt like more of a detective novel. Shara was a clandestine operative, but Mulaghesh is more like the “hard-working gumshoe” of the noir genre. This book starts with a missing person—possibly murdered, possibly a murderer—and then uses the conventions of the world (as set up in the first book) to hit the ground running. I absolutely guessed the whodunnit fairly early on, but by the time I was proven right, I had changed my mind and second- and third- and even sixth-guessed myself.

I usually try to avoid outright spoilers, but possibly the only disappointing part of this book was that a character I really liked—and hoped could be a POV character in a future book—was killed in the climax. There was a moment when I didn’t believe it, when I thought that perhaps I had read too much into a particular scene, when I thought the author would bring her back in a dramatic moment. And then a few chapters later both her father and her lover are driven a little bit mad by seeing her body. I was a little too sleepy when I was finishing the book to cry for her, but I genuinely thought about it.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series. I can’t wait to see what the next Divine mystery in this world is, and whose job it becomes to solve it. Yes, the writing is excellent, but these books are also highly entertaining—something I don’t discount in any book I read.

City of Blades is written by Robert Jackson Bennett and will be published on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Broadway Books. It is the second book in The Divine Cities series. My review for the first book can be found here.

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About Sky

I'm a: 20-something, fantasy writer, deep thought thinker, sometime knitter, bookstore browser, amateur cook, journaler, cat owner, cheap wine connoisseur, ancient and medieval history lover, occasional philosopher, avid reader, museum wanderer.
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