The city of Voortyashtan was once the home 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 find a Saypuri secret agent who's gone AWOL in the middle of a mission. But the ghosts of past wars have followed her there, and soon she begins to wonder what happened to the souls in the afterlife when the gods were defeated by her people, the Polis. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?
©2016 Robert Jackson Bennett (P)2016 Recorded Books
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
The gods have been destroyed. This isn't myth or ancient history -- it happened less than a lifetime ago. They were oppressive and made slaves of much of humanity until the eventual uprising came. But if the gods are all dead, then what happened to the afterlives they created, and those left in them?
But really, I'm only scratching the surface. Straight up: City of Blades is the best thing I've listened to thus far this year. What's so impressive is not just the fantastic world building, but all the balls Robert Jackson Bennett is juggling and how timely it all feels in these politically divisive days. There is political unrest, divine terrorism, magical death swords, and best of all: our hero General Turyin Mulagesh.
Formerly retired General Mulagesh is a woman made of chrome (over 30 who isn't defined by being a mother, wife, etc. Bonus: she's tough and hilarious). She's also disabled -- she lost her left hand in the Battle of Bulikov and is trying to figure out how to make do with the clunky prosthesis. It's unusual to get that kind of protagonist in a fantasy novel, which is a shame because daaaaaaamn is Mulagesh a delight to read. While she was a strong supporting character in City of Stairs, she takes the spotlight in this book and does it with style. In the first chapter of the book, some guy with a weapon screams at her F--- you, Mulagesh, and f--- AIEEEEEEEE!!!! because Mulagesh just kicked his ass when he threatened her. Later on, she responds to a diplomatic gathering, "I'm on vacation you dumb sons of bitches!" Yes, there were times I was literally laughing out loud listening. But in addition to all the fun, she's driven by a darkness in her history, and a desire to right the wrongs of her past. She'd be right at home sharing a plate of pancakes with Hellboy.
Mulagesh is a portrait of a soldier in a time of political divisiveness (both in the story and, of course, in our own current events). Bennett writes with a fury aimed at the absurdity of war but retaining respect toward the soldiers who live and fight through it. Toward the end of the book we read, "Perhaps it's just that one who lives a life of war becomes a refugee from it." That feels like a pretty apt description for how veterans may feel when they return home from war and re-enter society. At times, City of Blades reads as if Sebastian Junger had been embedded in some strange war against dead gods with insurgents from the afterlife, divine artifacts, and those in the armed services stuck in the crossfire of it all.
Whatever the literary equivalent of action movie set pieces is, Bennett has it in spades. There's a chapter about midway through the book where a sword is being delivered to Mulagesh. We know this is very bad news, but the way Bennett keeps upping the stakes throughout this chapter is nothing short of breathtaking. Bennett also broke my heart playing with some of fantasy's tropes. Toward the end of the story, it becomes clear that several characters aren't going to make it out alive. And yet, this is a story that deals with miracles and the divine, right? So I kept hoping maybe there was some way death might be reversed. Please!?!?! But, no. The characters stay dead, and the survivors are ripped apart by the loss of their friends and family.
City of Blades is my kind of book -- it has incredible worldbuilding, as well as characters who feel like they've lived a lifetime and are struggling with their sins. I was surprised by how touched I was when Sigurd said to another character that there was more to life than the great tasks that we set for ourselves. I mentioned political divisiveness earlier, and the whole story line involving Mulagesh's history on the battlefield and promotion through the ranks put me in mind of the soldiers who put themselves in harm's way for their country.
Alma Cuervo is yet again a perfect match for this book. I'm so glad Recorded Books brought her back to narrate Mulagesh's POV flawlessly. She's not the flashiest of narrators, but she makes each one of these characters breathe, and it's hard for me to imagine any of these characters being read by someone else. (I know the third book in this trilogy stars Sigurd, and I really hope that despite this, Recorded Books brings back Cuervo. She is so great at everything she does here.)
City of Blades is the second book in the Divine Cities trilogy, but that shouldn't scare you off if you haven't read the first book (although the first book is all kinds of awesome too). It stands on its own just fine, and it's the best kind of fantasy book -- one that will sweep you away to another to inhabit another world, so that when you return to this one, you'll be able to view if from a whole different perspective. This is the kind of book that makes you remember why you love fantasy.
Great mature characters and interesting plot. Fun read and quite entertaining. Mr. Benett continues to grow as an author. As good as City of Stairs was I think City of Blades was better.The theme was also oriented towards adults. I don't think that adolescents or those with an adolescent mind set would understand the theme. No elves, orcs, knights or princesses here.
it was not as good as city of stairs, but is a really good follow up book. a first in any series has the benefit of new, of introducing characters. the pacing of this one is different, but a great perspective shift following the general around.
1 Star -- Terrible 2 Stars -- Bad 3 Stars -- Mediocre 4 Stars -- Great to the right person. 5 Stars -- Superb, you must pick this up.
Was City of Stairs just a successful prototype? I only ask because this book blew its predecessor out of the water. Just like how I knew Seveneves was going to be my book of the year last year, I have the suspicion that this will be 2016's book of the year.
City of Blades stars Mulaghesh, who was my second favorite character of the first book, as she is strong-armed into searching for another missing person in the capital city of the god of war. This time around, the mystery is streamlined and makes plenty of sense after the reveal. Now, we do get a handful of other returning characters, including my favorite. However, these characters play a weak second to some of the newly introduced characters. The takeaway is that this is it's own book, it may be in the same world, but I hesitate to call it a direct sequel.
This book seems like it might be high fantasy, and I suppose it is, but being set in a more modern setting breathes so much fresh life into the genre that this book is something new entirely. Beyond this, Bennet has become more focused and created a tighter book than the first in the series. There wasn't a single moment of the book that I was bored. I was constantly given ideas and themes to think about when I had set the book down, and even better, none of my trigger points of rage were ever clicked. It just is a masterpiece.
I recommend this to anyone that even has a passing interest in fantasy novels. And even if you didn't like the first book much, if you were at all interested in the premise, I highly recommend this book.
Mulaghesh. She's everything I like in a character. Funny and tragic in equal measure.
I honestly don't know if I could pick one scene as a favorite. This book(Series, really) is full of great moments.
Oh yes. This book explores some heavy themes, and there are a few moments that got to me. I won't discuss them, because, you know, spoilers.
It's a great sequel that I enjoyed even more than the first. Amazing story, amazing narration. Excited for the next one.
Another excellent book in the Divine Cities trilogy featuring my favourite of the two female main characters from City of Stairs, General Turyin Mulaghesh. She is as gruff, tough and snarky as ever, but needs all those qualities in spades on her new mission to Voortyashthan. Fortunately another of our favourite characters, Sigrud the Dreyling eventually turns up to help.
Although these books feature a crime as a background plot, they are not really detective stories, but more an exploration of politics, war strategy and the effects of a reversal of power when the slaves of Saypur rebelled and subdued their former masters, the states in the Continent. Now those states are paying, although some degree of aid to rebuild and improve is being given under the regime led by President Shara Komayd.
Superbly written, with the main theme revolving around death, war and an afterlife, the story is grim and harsh, cruel and uncompromising in places, with hardly a shred of humour. This is balanced by interesting strands of plot, several good characters and fairly constant action.
Not lightweight but interesting and worthwhile. If you enjoyed City of Stairs I recommend this and am pretty sure you will be glad to read it. Looking forward to the final book in the series while hoping it will be less grim. Real life gives sparse hope in situations such as those of the Divine Cities under a harsh master's heel, but this is fantasy so maybe a glimmer of light will break through in The City of Miracles.
Alma Cuervo, repeating her performance from the first book and making all the characters come perfectly alive as recognisable individuals.
I really enjoyed this title. I really like the world and the author did a great job with the characters. Even the throw-away characters. The pacing was done well, and the mix of humor was just right. Highly recommend.
PC Gamer, RC Enthusiat, Musician, Runner
This wonderfully written series follows General Mulagesh to the city of blades. Mystery, suspense, and an excellent path through the storyline.
I wish I could give more stars for performance. Alma Cuervo is the best performer I've listened to. I listened to City of Stairs twice just because I was craving her reading, and waited for the audiobook for this one although I was dying to know what happens after the Battle of Bulikov.
Sorry Bennett, you wrote a very good book but Cuervo steals the scene :)
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