By Heather A.
5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
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?
A copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
See my review of City of Stairs (Divine Cities #1) here.
Second book slump?? I don’t think so. The strategy to focus on a different character was smart. I appreciate that I didn’t need to remember much about the first book to dive into this one. (A problem I willingly admit that I have when I have to remember a super critical moment from book one that I forgot about by book two.) I remember how the “world” of dead divinities worked, and the jist of what happened in book one and it was fine. I also forgot how Mulaghesh lost her arm, but it was explained again so I could move forward. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to Mulaghesh in the first book, but I really should have, she’s such a force in this novel.
I have to talk about the fact that the main character of this novel is in her 50’s, is a general in the military, and is missing an arm. (What kind of person would relate to this character? Nobody or everybody?) All of this information doesn’t limit her in any way. In fact, as I was reading this book, I kept thinking she was in her prime. She’s astoundingly smart, and her ability to strategize is above and beyond anyone in the novel. Is she a diplomat? No way (so much cursing!). But she earns the respect of everyone she speaks to. She’s fucking badass.
So when she’s put into this situation where she’s trying to find this Saypuri officer, she dives right in. She was reluctant, but she has a duty and it is unflinching. At no point was she like, “I need to walk away from this.” The drive that kept her going was exactly what I wanted in a character. In addition to finding out about the missing officer, she also uncovers secrets that are manifesting in the city of death (Voortya is the divinity of War and death, of which the city is named). She takes risks to protect the people of Voortyashtan. I want to talk about it more, but it’s spoiler-y!
I was pleasantly surprised that most of the leadership roles or secondary characters were women. The one dude in power turned out to be power hungry. And when Surgid shows up he’s more of a sidekick to Mulaghesh (he’s the focus of the next book, so that’s cool). Surgid’s daughter oversees the construction of the harbor in Voortyashtan. She is the supervisor of numerous projects and is an engineering wiz. She’s in command. And she doesn’t want that power taken away from her –either by her underlings, the Saypuri military, or her father. The other women Mulaghesh interacts with are also strong, smart, and the type that take no shit from anyone.
The parts of City of Stairs that I gravitated toward the most—dead gods, divine miracles—are the same things I found appealing in City of Blades, Mulaghesh encounters a new material that seems divine, despite all evidence that the god where the material would derive it’s power is dead. This material, Thinadeskite, is made from the souls of the dead, and in a way they possess just as much control as a divinity would in this world. It is horrifying to read about these dead soldiers and their power of destruction. The lore and mythology behind them was something that I found terrifying, but I couldn’t stop reading. Bennett delivered another exhilarating read in the Divine Cities trilogy. Can’t wait for the next book!