City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Divine Cities (Book 3 of 3)
Genre: Urban fantasy, fantasy, post-apocalyptic
Published: 2nd May 2017 by Broadway Books (US) & 4th May 2017 by Jo Fletcher Books (UK)
With its stunning denouement in City of Miracles, Robert Jackson Bennett’s masterful genre-redefining trilogy is now one of my all-time favourites.
I still bemoaned the fact that I’ve waited this long to read The Divine Cities. Well, better late than never and I think I’ve found a new favourite author with phenomenal talent. As far as I am concerned, this trilogy is an enthralling masterpiece of sublime originality.
I’ve never read anything quite like this and this is speaking from three decades worth of reading fantasy. From well-known classics like Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, The Belgariad and The Mallorean, The Riftwar Cycle, The Wheel of Time to modern fare, such as Sanderson’s Cosmere (another all-time favourite), The Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Kingkiller Chronicles, Riyria Revelations & Chronicles, Gentleman Bastards, and The Faithful and The Fallen; just to name a few.
Most recently, I have also read a unique take in science fiction-fantasy, The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, whose last book made its way onto my favourites shelf. The Divine Cities, however, did much better as I rounded up the first book’s rating of 4.5 stars (which in all possibility might get an outright 5-stars upon reread), and the even more spectacular second book immediately became a favourite.
“This was born in blood. It always was. It was born in conquest, born in power, born in righteous vengeance. And that is how it means to end. This is a cycle, repeating itself over and over again, just as your life repeats itself over and over again.”
We come to this at the end of three books depicting a cycle of strife, war and discontent. Just as a previous superior race inflicted its dominance over another, the successor sought to never come under oppression again through atrocious means. What can our main protagonists possibly do to try to break this cycle?
The characterisation in this trilogy continues to captivate by staying true to the main characters that we have known since the first volume. We only have a few new introductions which are essential to the story and plot as the lore surrounding the Divinities and miracles are revealed through a gloriously epic apotheosis of events. I couldn’t praise Bennett enough for his stellar characters and vividly rich worldbuilding, and even more for his skill in crafting an immensely compelling story with these tools of the trade.
I loved and enjoyed reading about all the main characters from the very first book, but the one that had yet to take centre stage was Sigrud je Harkvaldsson. I was delighted to learn that we are going to conclude this magnificent trilogy with his POV. The story took place thirteen years after the events in City of Blades, and the consequences of Sigrud’s actions at the end of that book as well as the cumulative effect of all that he had done in the years as an operative weighed heavily on his psyche. Just like how the character of Mulaghesh was shaped in the reader’s mind in City of Stairs and then carried forward into its sequel as the perfect main protagonist for the story therein, Sigrud’s propensity for violence, his supernatural skills and ability to survive against all odds that we have seen since the beginning play a significant role in the plot resolution of this concluding volume.
“You have a choice, a choice I never did. You have a choice to be different. You, who have defeated many by strength of arms, you will have a moment when you choose to do as you have always done, or you can choose to do something new.”
As with most of my reviews at the end of a series, I will keep this relatively short to avoid revealing much of which is better left to be discovered. The conclusion of this trilogy was beautifully bittersweet and emotionally powerful. In short, it was perfection. Everyone who loves fantasy should read this for one of the most original and brilliant creations the genre has to offer. Highly, highly recommended.
Review originally written in 2018