Review: City of Miracles

city-of-miraclesTitle: City of Miracles (2017)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Pages: 448
The Divine Cities #3 (Series Tracker)
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

In this final volume of Robert Jackson Bennett’s brilliantly inventive Divine Cities trilogy, the focus shifts to Sigrud je Harkvaldsson — for my money, one of the best characters in the series. Seeing him get the spotlight was a welcome sight, but I didn’t end up enjoying his POV as much as Shara’s and Mulaghesh’s before him. He may be better served as a supporting character being peppered-in sparingly rather than having full star-status, but as the plot unfolds you come to realize that he was the necessary choice for this role. While he struggles to carry parts of the novel, Bennett builds up a strong supporting cast around him that mostly negates this deficiency.

Bennett’s writing is as strong as ever here, as the novel sets off with a propulsive pace. I’ll set the scene — against the backdrop of a gloomy metropolis, a hulking, lone-wolf vigilante, stealthily picks off baddies one by one in the dark, fueled by the deaths of those he loved. He’s basically Batman for the first part of the novel and I loved it. Despite a middle portion that could have been tightened up as my interest started to wane, Bennett ratchets everything back up for the big heart-pounding finale that each of his books have done so well.

Overall, this was a worthy addition to the Divine Cities series, but not my favorite. That said, Robert Jackson Bennett nailed this trilogy and did a wonderful job with the interplay of gods & mortals, modernity & traditional fantasy worlds, and great characters & an imaginative story. I look forward to seeing what he puts out next.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: City of Blades

city_of_blades_coverTitle: City of Blades
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Pages: 484
Series: The Divine Cities #2
Read via: Kindle

Review: There is something about the flow of Robert Bennett Jackson’s writing that makes it so enjoyable to read. He writes compelling dialogue and creates vivid worlds that are a joy to delve into. While expertly weaving plot elements, Jackson simultaneously gives each character a clear agency that gives purpose to their actions and goals.

In most ways, City of Blades is an excellent sequel. It’s not just a retread of the first book. It builds and expands on themes we saw before, changes the setting, spotlights different characters, dials down the melodrama, and turns up the mystery. It did not really feel like the middle book of a trilogy, however. Each book is largely self-contained, with few hints towards a larger, trilogy-spanning story at play. In a sense, each book has been a character-study of strong female heroines who do battle against separate world-dooming forces. It’s a structure that works and I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy coming next year.

★★★★½ out of 5

Review: City of Stairs

513v72ajkll-_sy344_bo1204203200_Title: City of Stairs
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Pages: 452
Series: The Divine Cities #1
Read via: Kindle

Summary: Bulikov once housed six divinities who enacted miracles upon the city and who were revered by the Continentals, the local populace. The Saypuri, the enslaved and oppressed minority group, were able to topple the gods and shift the balance of power in Bulikov. Now, hundreds of years later, certain Continentals seek to restore things to the way they once were through any means necessary.
Reminiscent of: 
Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere; the setting of Elantris, the history and class struggle of the Mistborn novels, the industrial elements of The Alloy of Law, politics and plot elements of The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Review: I strongly considered giving up on this novel at several points in the early going. I was thrown off by the mix of modern and ancient elements and also put off by the lack of nuance in the discussion of one character’s forbidden sexuality. Thankfully, I pushed on after reading numerous glowing reviews that promised big payoffs for all the loose threads presented in the beginning chapters.

Many of the reviews I had read complained about the heavy emphasis on history in this novel, but every motivation of each group of characters was rooted in the rich history of Bulikov. Without it, you’re left with no context for the conflicts that occur amongst the warring factions. There was enough action blended with the politics and history to be engaging to me as a reader.

Overall, I really enjoyed Bennett’s writing style. It was not flowery and there was nary an “SAT word” to be found, but everything was smoothly written and flowed very nicely. The story was intricately plotted, featured likable characters, and had an ending that felt complete and satisfying. I look forward to picking up the sequel, City of Blades, in the near future.

★★★★½ out of 5