Robert Jackson Bennett’s brilliant Divine Cities trilogy comes to an end, and the author of Mr Shivers and The Troupe has made sure to send his characters off with a bang. The incredibly rich world that he has created, with warring states, undercover operatives, miraculous tricks and dead gods who aren’t as dead as they should be, has been an absolute pleasure to return to every time, but this final chapter opens on a powerful and affecting loss.
Shara Komayd, the former Prime Minister of Saypur (and heroine of the first novel, City Of Stairs), has been killed, an assassin’s bomb leaving the world in no doubt that the wily, controversial politician has met her end. For Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, the Dreyling giant who worked with Shara putting his deadly skills to good use for so many years, this news tears his world apart.
After spending years waiting for word from his old friend that it was time to return to action, Sigrud sets off on his own mission of vengeance, determined to track down whoever was responsible for killing his former employer. But this won’t be as simple as cutting a throat (or several throats, as the case may be). Whoever wanted Shara dead is just getting started, and the miracles strewn around the crime scene show that this was no ordinary political assassination…
Each novel in this trilogy has offered its readers something very different. City Of Stairs blended Le Carré-esque espionage thrills with giant monsters, while City Of Blades relocated from Bulikov to the port city of Voortyashatan for an occupation story with rebellious locals, uneasy military and shady shipping tycoons. City Of Miracles feels much more personal, placing its focus firmly on Sigrud, a man who has lost everything and is expecting to die while fulfilling his final mission.
It also has a much clearer villain than the first two books. The being behind all this is Nokov, a powerful and shadowy figure with a kill-list and an unbendable will. Without wanting to spoil anything, Nokov is every bit as driven as Sigrud and he is a genuinely scary, complex threat.
While Bennett still has enormous fun putting huge action set-pieces together (the chapter set on an aero-tram is absolutely thrilling and oddly reminiscent of Archer in the best possible way), there is a greater emotional weight here, which comes from Sigrud’s world-weary heart-ache and the addition of Shara’s adopted daughter Taty, who is being guarded by wealthy recluse Ivanya (a minor character from City Of Stairs). The truth about Shara’s life has been kept from Taty, and her relationship with Sigrud (bonding over shared loss and target practice) gives the novel real heart while becoming increasingly important to the plot.
Of course, there are all the labyrinthine twists, buried secrets and colossal, world-threatening revelations that you’d expect from a Divine Cities book, and Bennett’s ability to juggle a huge scope, an intricate mythology and fascinating, loveable and entertaining characters continues to impress. This is an excellent finale to a trilogy that we will miss.