Thursday, June 29, 2017

REVIEW | The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopia (It was a Goodreads Choice Nominee for Horror which I get)
Series: The Passage #3
Awards: None
Format: Digital Audio (Library)
Narrator: Scott Brick

**SPOILERS AHOY:  There may be spoilers for books one and two in this series so look away if you haven't read those yet!**

WHY?: I needed to see how it all ended!

SYNOPSIS:  The majority of The City of Mirrors skips ahead roughly 20 years from the devastating but seemingly victorious-for-the-human-race events that took place in Iowa in book 2.  In the large settlement at Kerrville Texas, years have passed without a single sighting of a viral and the human race has begun to creep out and establish new settlements.  The central band, led by Peter have gone their separate ways and lived their lives the best way they can never suspecting that the nightmare isn't over and they still have one more foe to vanquish in order for the human race to survive.


This series and I have been down a rocky road.  I've loved it, I've hated it, I've wanted to clutch it to my chest, and fling it dramatically into a fire.  In short, sometimes Cronin just got too "look at the miserable lives and revel" literary for me, sometimes those literary writing chops created an uncommonly beautiful adventure story.   So I went into this with trepidation but hope and third time's a charm, at least for me.  The City of Mirrors is an epic, fascinating, beautiful, sad and pretty darn good ending to The Passage saga.

My biggest complaint from book two was that Cronin starts it by shooting the reader and story back into the past, introducing swaths of new characters, and this effectively stalls the momentum of the quest narrative started in book 1.  Not to mention that I did  not care for or about any of the new characters and just wanted to find out what happened to the merry band from California, Peter, Alicia, Sara, Hollis, Amy, Michael, Moussami and Theo.  He took ages to get to them and when he did, it took forever to pull them all back together and get things moving forward again.

In The City of Mirrors, the book starts by checking in with the main characters, roughly 3 years post book two and they are all on the cusp of some major life change.  It then propels us 20 or so years into the future and shows the consequences of those life changes.  For some of them it's been relatively peaceful living, the virals appear to be gone once and for all and humanity has relaxed its guard.  Some of the original band however are saddled with a terrible truth.  Their struggle is not yet over - Patient Zero is still out there.

Of course Cronin can't resist dipping back into the past at least for a little while and in this instance it is to tell the back story of Zero.  It's actually a really great part of the book even if it does feel a little like a book within the book.  It comes at the right time in the narrative and for my money is the most interesting of his forays into backstory, feeling fully fleshed out but not too overly detailed.   It is also fully relevant, and fills in some of the hinted at story from book one while also being thought-provoking.  It is almost a modern day re-telling of the Helen of Troy myth - one perfect woman and  the two men, who for the love of her cause the downfall and almost extinction of the human race.  This poor woman, as we know her, would likely have been completely horrified about what was done in her name and memory.  It was a wow moment for me. Love conquers all, quite literally.

I was also way more aware of the Christian religious imagery in this book versus the first two though that may not be because it is more prevalent or emphasised. It is sometimes pretentious and overblown but it also adds some interesting depth to dig into.

Overall this was definitely my favorite of the three books.  The flow is right and he mostly doesn't dive too deeply into tangent storylines.  I found it to be a complete page turner.  The ending may not be what every reader hoped for, but I liked it.

FINAL VERDICT:  A great closing to an excellent, but uneven, dystopian series.  The series is well worth reading though it is a LOT of pages!  4 out of 5 Stars to The City of Mirrors and I'd probably give the whole series a 3.5.

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE: The Washington Post* | Caffienated Book Reviewer

* If you are really spoiler phobic, I would avoid this one, though once you've read book 3 come back to it because it's hilarious.

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