City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

March 21, 2016 Reviews 1 ★★★★★

City of Blades by Robert Jackson BennettCity of Blades (Divine Cities #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Published: January 7th 2016 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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5 Stars

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions. Now the city's god is dead and the city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is just a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh - foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumoured war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister - has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world - or destroy it.

City of Blades is utterly brilliant, a worthy sequel that surpasses its predecessor without overshadowing it, and an exquisite achievement in its own right.

“Deserve. How preoccupied we are with that. With what we should have, with what we are owed. I wonder if any word has ever caused more heartache.”

I thought I’d miss Bulikov. I thought I’d miss Shara. But City of Blades does what few sequels manage to do – it progresses the story without lessening the magic of the original. By switching protagonists and setting the action in a new city Bennett has preserved everything that was amazing about City of Stairs. The world has moved on in the five years since we left these characters, technology has changed and tensions have escalated, and Mulaghesh is hailed as the hero of the Battle of Belikov.

We met General Turyin Mulaghesh in City of Stairs – a no nonsense and brave soldier with a haunted past. By shifting the focus onto her, City of Blades takes us into that past, peeling away the layers one by one until we begin to understand Mulaghesh. We follow her into Voortyashtan, sent by Prime Minister Shara Komyad to investigate the disappearance of a Saypuri spy, meet her old commander, General Lalith Biswal, and Sigrud’s daughter, Signe Harkvaldsson, and discover something more complex and sinister than corruption in the Continental city.

I love these characters! I loved Mulaghesh in City of Stairs, and I grew to love Signe Harkvaldsson as much as I’d admired her father. I think Signe could have, too easily, been constructed as a younger, female version of her father. But Bennet has created amazing, dimensional characters in Mulaghesh and Signe, and I never felt that the daughter was over-shadowed by the father. Like Shara in City of Stairs, Mulaghesh is uniquely suited to the situation that unfolds in Voortyashtan. An encyclopaedic knowledge of history and Divine miracles isn’t needed, because City of Blades is predominantly concerned with the causes and consequences of warfare and soldiering. It deals with the nature of a soldier. And Mulaghesh knows these things intimately. Yet again, the narrative is peppered with interesting secondary characters, including Captain Kiran Nadar, commander of Fort Thinadeshi, and Rada Smolisk, the first Continental polis governor.

City of Blades was awesome – breathtaking and beautiful and deep – and yet again, I find myself in awe of Bennett’s mastery. We still have a lot to discover about the past and true natures of the Divinities, and Mulaghesh is now positioned to affect some major changes in the landscape of Saypuri and Continental relations, so I’m quietly hopeful that City of Miracles will absolutely blow my mind.

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