After his sensational blend of alternate history, angry gods, politics and espionage, Robert Jackson Bennett returns to the world he created in City Of Stairs with City Of Blades.
The battle of Bulikov was won, and the gods were defeated for a second time. Given that they were all supposed to be dead anyway, there’s understandably a lot of suspicion around anything that seems to be miraculous, so when a ludicrously conductive powder is found in the remote territory of Voortyashtan, Shara is keen to keep it under wraps.
She sends retired General Mulaghesh as her proxy, under the guise of investigating the disappearance of a civil servant. Inevitably the two are linked, but can the bitter veteran get to the bottom of things while navigating the irritable military who used to be her colleagues, the industrialists who are here to build a harbour for maximum profit, and the restless native tribes who feel their land is being exploited?
City Of Blades is incredibly detailed, from the history and mythology of Saypur, and in this case Voortyashtan, to the cultural tensions and the grinding bureaucracy that these soldiers find themselves caught in in the aftermath of a tremendous conflict. But it never feels dense; in fact it’s frequently very funny (Bennett dedicates the novel to ‘Sir Terry’, and Pratchett’s influence is clear).
The irascible, flawed but determined Mulaghesh is tremendous company as she’s forced into a life of espionage, bouncing between her former commanding officer and Signe, the daughter of Sigrud, who will let nothing stand in her way.
It’s a very sharp portrayal of a political powder keg, complete with fantastic, fantastical action and hugely likeable characters. You’re going to want to read this.