City Of Mirrors by Justin Cronin book review

The Passage trilogy comes full circle in The City Of Mirrors

City Of Mirrors Justin Cronin

Fans have been waiting for Justin Cronin to conclude The City Of Mirrors, the third and final instalment in the Passage trilogy, for four years now, so it’s great to see it finally arrive. But does it present the conclusion to the series we’ve all been waiting for? Ultimately yes, but as ever, it makes you work for it.

Initially taking place three years after the climatic battle at the Homeland – which claimed the lives of all of the Twelve – life has returned to a state of relative normalcy, with no virals (super-strong vampires, for the layman) having been sighted in over three years. However, in this era of complacency, the survivors of the last fight have become restless. War hero Peter struggles to find his purpose in this new age of peace, and Alicia journeys to New York on the hunt for Zero, still haunted by her ordeal at the Homeland, while Michael travels along the coast in his sailboat looking for clues as to humanity’s fate. And Amy? Amy has vanished.

Like in his previous instalments, Cronin jumps between locations, dream sequences and time periods frequently and without warning. While this isn’t always welcome – especially when you’re just getting into a particular storyline – there’s usually a purpose behind it, even if it isn’t clear immediately what it is. Characters who were previously just background dressing get expanded upon, their true purposes finally revealed. It may well necessitate revisiting previous instalments The Passage and The Twelve, but really that isn’t such a bad thing.

The frequent flashbacks serve a vital purpose in anchoring the future world to the one we know today. At this point, over 100 years in the future, it’s easy to disassociate the story from its origins, but the changes in narrative ensure we never forget where it’s set and what has happened. To this end, we also finally get to hear about what’s happening in the wider world beyond the North America setting. While we won’t give away anything, we can say that it won’t be the answer you were expecting.

Even when he’s preoccupied with world-building, it’s hard not to get caught up in Cronin’s unique narrative. Over the course of three (admittedly meaty) novels he has created a mythology spanning thousands of years, yet at no point does any aspect of it feel especially neglected. Finding a novel twist on vampirism may seem like a thankless task, but it’s one that he achieves. His creations are a suitably menacing take on the existing bogeyman, increasing all its strengths tenfold while giving away little by way of weakness.

Clocking in at 600 pages, it’s a long read, but one you will sail through. If we have quibbles, it’s the neglect of certain characters. Alicia, the kick-ass heroine of the previous book, is sadly marginalised here, and not everyone gets the resolution you would have expected or wanted for them. Still, with such a large ensemble cast you can’t please everyone.

All in all, it’s a fitting end to one of the most ambitious trilogies we’ve read in a while. Hopefully we’ll see its like again soon enough.