Tuesday, January 26, 2016

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett - Book Review

From the publisher: A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

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. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is 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, rumored 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.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.

I don't really know where to begin with City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. It is so not what I was expecting (I did not read the first book in the series), but then again, I'm not sure what I was expecting in the first place. All of this to say, I really enjoyed reading this book. It showed what fantasy is capable of, and what it can be when done right.

City of Blades takes place, mostly, in the city of Voortyashtan, the former home to the goddess of death and war. The Saypuris, who killed all the Divinities and conquered the Continent (of which Voortyashtan is a part), have discovered a strange new ore that seems like it could be Divine. With this potential danger looming, the Prime Minister sends retired General Turyin Mulaghesh to investigate. What she finds is far more dangerous and complicated than she or the Prime Minister could have imagined.

One of the great aspects of City of Blades is the sense of history to the world. It is easy to accept the weariness and integrity of Mulaghesh. She is a very complex character, full of a deep backstory, dating back to wars that are touched on in the text, but are an integral part of the world building. There are Divinities, conflicts, and political machinations referenced that bear novels of their own. In this way, City of Blades reminds me of Tolkien's Middle Earth and Erikson's Malazan. There is a sense of reading history as you dig into City of Blades. It is also set in a world that is closer to our present, rather than the traditional Middle Age setting.

There is also a great bit of conspiracy and hidden motives, like the best spy novels. Mulaghesh is sent to investigate the ore Thinadeskite, and determine if it is Divine (aka Magical), and track down a missing Ministry official (spy). At the same time, no one in Voortyashtan knows of her mission. She soon finds herself imbroiled in missing explosives, several gruesome murders, a missing persons case, and a meeting with a fellow General with whom she has a working relationship dating back to a particularly awful campaign during the war to conquer the Continent.

Bennett has fully fleshed out his world, creating a deeply believable history. The magic is also deeply ingrained in the world, and feels very natural to the events that unfold. He has also dealt with the uncomfortable subjects of war and its effects on both individuals and societies. There are echoes of many of our world's conflicts throughout City of Blades.

Overall, I highly recommend Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Blades. It is a terrific read, and deserving of finding a wide audience. I enjoyed it enough that I'll now be tracking down the first book, City of Stairs. If you're looking for something in the fantasy realm, but different from the usual fare, give this book a try.

I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

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