Published: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 484 (Paperback)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
The city of Voortyashtan was once the domain 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 try to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone missing in the middle of a mission, but the city of war offers countless threats: not only have the ghosts of her own past battles followed her here, but she soon finds herself wondering what happened to all the souls that were trapped in the afterlife when the Divinities vanished. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?
Set five years after the events of City of Stairs, City of Blades picks up with a new mystery. This time it seems much more mundane- there is a Saypuri agent missing in Voortyashtan and Turyin Mulaghesh has been pulled out of a comfortable, if depressing, retirement to investigate off the record. Voortyashtan is nearly the complete opposite of civilized, urban Bulikov and the military presence is there for military reasons, not the mostly administrative duties that consumed the Saypuri government of Bulikov. The tone of the book is similar in many ways to City of Stairs, though the culture and circumstances are quite different.
Many sci-fi and fantasy novels out today have a main character that is (or seems to be) under the age of 30- they’ve got lots of youthful vigor to carry them through their quest to save the whole world and make it a lush utopian paradise, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Turyin Mulaghesh is not young. She’s retirement age, so I’m figuring she’s a minimum of 50 years old- correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember either book specifying. Turyin is an old warrior that’s seen her share of battle, death, starvation, plague, and the many other cruelties associated with war. She participated in them. General Mulaghesh only wants to retire and drink herself into forgetfulness and yet she’s pulled back into the ring for another round. I like that she’s not your typical won’t-it-be-a-grand-adventure type. Of course, this book wouldn’t be complete without appearances from our favorites from previous books, as well as some rather exciting new faces, cultures, politics, and murders.
Speaking of death… Voortyashtan, the City of Blades, was the place where Voortya the goddess of war was worshipped. Her people were warriors feared throughout the world and they had supernatural swords that were essentially one half of their being. This brought memories of some rather special swords from Steven Erikson’s books- the Hust swords, which also bonded with their wielders (and laughed with glee as they slew their foes). The Voortyashtani blades and their soldiers were in the nightmares of every Saypuri prior to the change in power. Bennett has such an incredible imagination- there are so many instances where I was just blown away by the images and ideas he could conjure with his words. The cities and cultures especially are just really magical and I would love to see some art based on his descriptions. My art skills are minimal, so I just appreciate the work of others. And occasionally flail in my attempts at bookish drawings.
The entirety of the book was strong and consistent in its pacing. The ending of course was a bang, but that’s what I like in my books! I find that I enjoyed City of Blades much more than City of Stairs- I love it when second books are even better than the debut novel of a series. It’s like, what more could I ask for??! I’m not really sure what book I could compare this to for recommendation, since it’s pretty unique. The most similar book would probably be Brian Staveley’s book The Emperor’s Blades and that’s kind of stretching it. Bennett’s books really stand out in a field of literature that stretches farther than the eye can see and lengthier than one could possibly read in several lifetimes. I hope his next novel, City of Miracles, lives up to the standard Bennett has set for himself!