City of Blades
by Robert Jackson Bennett
A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.
Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh — foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister — has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.
At least, it makes the perfect cover story.
The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery. For while the city’s god is most certainly dead, something is awakening in Voortyashtan. And someone is determined to make the world tremble at the the city’s awful power again.
I loved City of Stairs so much that I was itching to pick up the second book in this trilogy as soon as I finished it. When I realised the protagonist of this book was Mulaghesh, one of my favourite characters from City of Stairs, I couldn’t wait to read it.
Having served in the military for the majority of her life, Mulaghesh just wants to retire somewhere warm and sunny. At least that’s what she thinks she wants. When she’s asked to work undercover one final time before she can retire at last, Mulaghesh is sent to Voortyashtan, once ruled by the goddess of war, and finds herself facing her own demons and new dangers.
Mulaghesh is fantastic. She’s an older woman of colour with a prosthetic limb who isn’t married, doesn’t have children and doesn’t wish she had children. In other words, she’s such a refreshing heroine in the world of high fantasy.
Where City of Stairs examined history and who gets to tell the world’s stories, City of Blades is an examination of warfare and the people caught up in it. While we all know that war is bad and not a state that any of us desire, City of Blades doesn’t demonise soldiers at all. In fact Mulaghesh says it best herself: soldiers are there to serve their country and its people, and they don’t do so in the hope that they’ll receive glory. Being a soldier is a thankless job, but Mulaghesh lives for defending the weak and she’s willing to be unpopular for it.
I just love her. She’s funny, and not someone you’d want to cross, but under all of that she has a heart of gold and I love her so much. This book was such a joy to read purely and simply because it was a pleasure to follow Mulaghesh, and it just proves how good Bennett is at writing characters that I didn’t miss following Shara.
We do get glimpses of Shara, and it was lovely to see her again, as well as Sigrud; I loved Sigrud and Shara’s friendship in the first book, and Mulaghesh and Sigrud’s friendship was so much fun in this book. There are new characters too, such as Signe who I loved, and just like the first book Bennett excelled at writing honest people and writing characters who have to learn to live with the consequences of the mistakes they’ve made.
I sped through City of Blades, it was such an easy read, and even though I laughed many times because I adore Mulaghesh’s humour, there were moments that made my heart ache, too. I must admit I didn’t love this book quite as much as City of Stairs, or at least it didn’t blow my mind in the same way the first book did, but considering City of Stairs is one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read it had quite a pair of shoes to fill and I still loved City of Blades a lot.
If you’re a fan of City of Stairs, City of Blades is a brilliant follow-up that’s well worth your time, and if you haven’t read City of Stairs yet… what are you waiting for?