City of Miracles is a stunning accomplishment; it is a marvelous ending to what I now consider my favorite trilogy, and a fast-paced, addictive story in its own right.
“One should not seek ugliness in this world. There is no lack of it. You will find it soon enough, or it will find you.”
Sigrud je Harkvaldsson was one of my favorite side characters in both City of Stairs and City of Blades, and I was both incredibly excited and more than a little nervous to read his story. Sometimes when a side character becomes the focal point of the story, they seem to lose a bit of their appeal for some reason. That was definitely not the case here. Sigrud has a wealth of experiences under his belt, most of them not good ones. Those experiences have shaped him into the man he is today, for better or for worse. He feels that he really only excels at one thing: violence. Once again, he finds himself in a position calling for violent action, and he revels in it. Until he doesn’t. Sigrud grows so much throughout this book, and I loved seeing him learn from past mistakes and struggle with his past and who that past made him.
“But violence is a tool that, if you use it but once, it begs you to use it again and again. And soon you will find yourself using it against someone undeserving of it.”
While reading the first two books in this trilogy, I kept thinking that Sigrud reminded me of someone, though I could never put my finger on it. In City of Miracles we get to see into his mind, and I finally figured out who Sigrud is reminiscent of, at least in my opinion. He reminds me of Frankenstein’s Monster, the nameless noble savage who cannot seem to separate beauty from brutality. Because there is definitely nobility within Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, but that nobility has been hardened by a lifetime of violence. Sigrud’s tortured inner monologue also reminded me of the Monster, as both struggle within themselves to break free of the savage cycle in which they reside.
“To live with hatred,” says Sigrud, “is like grabbing hot embers to throw them at someone you think an enemy. Who gets burned the worst?”
Mourning has become a way of life for Sigrud. He has lost everything, both through the machinations of fate and the works of his own hands. But he suddenly finds himself in a role of leadership, and must help others deal with the same pain. How do you lose everyone you love and not let it turn you bitter? Or, if it does, how do you let go of that bitterness and move past it? How do you make that pain into a reminder to enjoy what you do have to the fullest, instead of letting it blind you to everything except what you’ve lost?
“What a tremendous sin impatience is, he thinks. It blinds us to the moment before us, and it is only when that moment has passed that we look back and see it was full of treasures.”
I don’t want to discuss plot here, except to say that the one within these pages was excellent. I was afraid going in that this installment would be lacking the mystery element that so drew me into the first two books, because of the spoiler in the synopsis. (If you haven’t read this series, don’t read the synopsis! Go in as blind as you can. Trust me.) And for the first third or so, it seemed that I was right. This book felt more straightforward than the others. But I needn’t have worried. There were definitely mysteries and surprises to be had. I love that these books were so unpredictable.
“A better world comes not in a flood, but with a steady drip, drip, drip. Yet it feels at times that every drop is bought with sorrow and grief.”
This book also gave me one of the most satisfying endings to a book or trilogy I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It was powerful and moving and just exactly right. I read it through tears, which I think is one of the highest compliments I can pay a book. The only ending I remember ever moving me to this extent is that in one of my favorite books, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.
“Death, as you know, had to die to understand death. War had to lose in order to understand victory.”
One of the things I love most about this trilogy is how well each book can stand on its own. I would of course strongly recommend reading all three books, and reading them in order. But if someone were to stumble upon the second or third installment and read that first, not realizing that it was part of a larger story, I feel that they could still appreciate it and enjoy it for what it is outside of its counterparts.
“We are all of us but the sum of our moments, our deeds.”
I can’t recommend this series enough. It is a perfect blending of multiple genres. It is a vivid, potent, multifaceted story. It is comprised of rich, broken characters, who have the benefit of years instead of youth to make them more compelling. It is original and unique and moving.
It’s a story that will stay with you long after you read the final page.
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