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City of Blades: The Divine Cities Book 2 Paperback – 7 Jan 2016
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Astonishingly good . . . a deep, powerful novel that's worth reading and rereading (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
One of the smartest second world fantasies out there and has some of the most memorable characters in recent memory (Wes Chu, The Chicago Review of Books)
Magnificent . . . City of Blades does everything a really good sequel should. If anything, it's a better book than its predecessor (Tor.com)
Surpasses its predecessor in almost all aspects . . . loud, bold and uncompromisingly ambitious and I wholeheartedly recommend it even if you haven't read City of Stairs (Upcoming4.me)
Does [City of Blades] live up to the Locus, World Fantasy, British Fantasy and GoodReads Choice Awards-nominated City of Stairs? Allow me to answer with an emphatic yes . . . Robert Jackson Bennett is one of the most talented authors writing in SFF today and this is his finest work to date' (Fantasy-Faction)
Robert Jackson Bennett deserves a huge audience. This is the book that will earn it for him. A story that draws you in, brilliant world building, and oh my God, Sigrud. You guys are going to love Sigrud. (Brent Weeks, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Black Prism on City of Stairs)
Building beautifully upon the richly detailed world introduced in the first book of the series, Bennett serves a stew of fantasy and adventure with a healthy dose of humor and a ladle full of violence (Library Journal, starred review)
Like the very best speculative fiction, City of Blades immerses readers in a made-up world, only to force us to take a harder look at the real one (Booklist)
Richly detailed and expertly plotted. A grand entertainment (Kirkus)
City of Blades is bolder and harder hitting in almost every aspect . . . perfection. This one gets a full five stars and my hearty recommendation (Bibliosanctum)
Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death - or do they have plans of their own? A triumphant return to the world of A City of Stairs.See all Product description
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Unless there’s a new world order in the next 11 months City of Blades will undoubtedly be on my end of year ‘best of’ list. To be honest, I expected this to be good because all the books I’ve read by RJB have been good and I loved City of Stairs last year but this really is so very good.
At the start of the story we are once again introduced to General Turyin Mulaghesh. She’s retired to a small ‘mediterranean’ feeling island and is enjoying her seclusion, particularly when she’s riling up the locals, until she’s rudely jolted out of her retirement by a request from Shara. So Turyin is sent to the City of Voortyashtan – apparently one of the last places in this world that anyone would want to go. Her mission is to try and discover what happened to Choudhry, a Saypuri agent who has gone missing in action.
Before the blink Voortyashtan was home to the Goddess of death, war and destruction. It is now on the brink of becoming a successful seaport however not everyone is happy with the current status. It appears that work on creating a successful gateway is dredging up not just artifacts from the sea bottom but also strong emotions. On top of this brutal and ritualistic type murders are discovered across the island and Turyin is about to be pulled into a plot that not only conjures up the ghosts of her past but also poses a threat to the world in which she lives.
The world building is once again outstanding. Voortyashtan is a difficult place to live to say the least. It seems to be under constant threat of retaliation from the unsecured interior districts. The port itself is protected by an army presence and an imposing fort but any travel further afield is dangerous and not to be lightly undertaken. There is a constant threat of subversive/guerrilla type action that makes any investigation into the goings on even more difficult. Personally I would recommend reading City of Stairs before picking this one up although I think you could probably jump on board with Blades and pick up the story fairly easily. Bennett has a way of gently easing you into the world and feeding you information in a very manageable way. So, whilst I would, of course, recommend reading City of Stairs first (partly because I enjoyed it so much partly because I think it gives a good grounding in the history of the Saypuri’s, Continentals and the Divinities that used to exist) I think this could be read as a standalone.
I must admit that I was at first a little surprised that the author chose to continue this series using Turyin as the main character because Sigrud and Shara were firm favourites for most readers, myself included, but I must say not only does he pull it off but he does so with style and creates one of the most wonderfully complex, flawed, intelligent and easy to root for characters that I’ve read about for a while. I absolutely loved her. The power of good writing and a bit of creative genius, eh!
The other characters who join Turyin along the way are Signe. Signe is another very enjoyable character to read about. She’s an engineering genius by all accounts and seems to be almost single handedly running the entire operation to create a successful seaport. On top of this Signe is Sigrud’s daughter and I can’t say she’s his biggest fan. She hasn’t really forgiven him for what she feels was his abandonment when she was still fairly young and given these feelings the fact that Sigrud makes an appearance during the second half of the book makes for interesting reading. Biswal is another character and something of an unwanted blast from Turyin’s past – this was a dark time in Turyin’s life and a period that has haunted her for many years. Biswal is now the commander at the fort and once again making his acquaintance is going to bring back painful memories.
I can’t really say too much about the plot as it would just give things away. There’s definitely a ‘whodunnit’ type of feel to this book with Turyin investigating the disappearance of an agent until the plot opens up to reveal a much deeper threat. That being said, be aware that this isn’t one of those stories where tens of thousands march to war. It has a more confined feeling, which isn’t intended as a criticism, because Bennett manages to cram in battles, murders, Gods, mines, afterlifes, intrigue, politics, scheming and, well a lot more! It certainly has a different feeling from City of Stairs with much more focus on soldiering and serving which I suppose can be expected as we’re following Turyin. Such a clever device to use Turyin though as it allows Bennett to delve back into the past and reveal more of the history of this world.
Overall, I was quite blown away by City of Stairs. The writing is wonderful, the story is intriguing the characters are excellent to follow, the ending, well, I’m just not going to go there, it’s sad, but also it has an amazing resolution and frankly it just leaves me wanting more. I don’t see how you could have a stronger recommendation than that. More, please, I want more.
Well written, tautly plotted and a completely absorbing read that gallops along and is something that has many layers to it. It is a delight to have found such a talented writer and I am thrilled that I have still got City of Miracles to read.
A bit of espionage and a whodunnit all feels fairly routine, ignoring the fact that old world gods are behind a lot of what's going on, but then the madness of war intervenes and there are no comfort zones for any of our characters.
An immensely sad but uplifting tale in the final analysis and one that I loved reading.
I do hope there are more tales to tell from this world.
At the heart of the novel is a thorough and sensitive evaluation of the horrors of war and the paradox that is its necessity in human history. It is also a highly enjoyable fantasy of well above average standard that shouldn't disappoint any fan of the genre.