Review: The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

May 19, 2016 Books, Reading, Reviews 2 ★★★

Review: The City of Mirrors by Justin CroninThe City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
three-stars
In "The Passage" and "The Twelve", Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity s desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon but does silence promise the nightmare s end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? At last, this bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale.

"The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?"

The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity's only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.
Series: The Passage #3
Published by Ballantine on May 24th 2016
Genres: Apocalyptic, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: eARC
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Buy the Book at: Amazon

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

This book contains potentially triggering material. You can find details of potential triggers at the end of this review.

It’s been a while since the second book in Cronin’s The Passage series came out; four years, in fact. If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t done a re-read in a while, you might want to before reading The City of Mirrors. It drops you into the story a few years after the end of The Twelve, and if you can’t remember who each person in the cast of thousands is, it can make for some rather rocky reading.

This is kind of a difficult review to write, honestly. I think The City of Mirrors is a good story and is for the most part a satisfying conclusion to the series, but there are a few big flaws that really interfered with my enjoyment. This review will contain spoilers, though I’ll try to keep them vague. If you haven’t read the series at all, you might want to skip this review and read my review of The Passage to see if you’re interested in the series.

The biggest problem I have with The City of Mirrors is its pacing. The story didn’t really start moving forward until the 50% mark, and I gave serious thought to just giving up on the book several times up to that point. It was more stubbornness on my part to actually finish this book that got me to the end. Cronin takes a lot of time setting things up, reintroducing you to each character as they are in the years that he jumps forward both from the end of The Twelve and within this book itself. And honestly, I really didn’t care for the level of detail about the minutiae of these characters’ lives. It was way too much, and I didn’t feel like it added much to my experience as a reader. I appreciated being introduced to new (or newly grown up) characters, but there’s a point where I wished Cronin would wrap up the slice of life stuff and get moving on the plot. You know, the whole thing about the virals making their final move to wipe out humanity? That plot? Yeah.

Much to my frustration, about 25% of the way into the book, we’re suddenly treated to a full quarter of the novel’s length in first person, told from Timothy Fanning’s point of view. You probably remember him better as Zero, the original virus carrier. I found myself skimming this section, until it gets to the more relevant parts of his later life, because honestly, I didn’t need to read a self-indulgent memoir of a Harvard-educated guy. This section of the novel was equal parts obnoxious and weirdly fascinating, and it felt very jarring, like being dropped into an entirely different novel. I wish it had been a lot shorter.

Something that bothered me about The Twelve still bothers me with The City of Mirrors: the narrative reliance on rape as a plot device and the often rigidly enforced gender roles. Nearly every named female adult character has a child, whether by her own choice or not. Even Alicia, the female character who steps the farthest outside of a traditionally feminine gender role, is punished by giving birth to a child conceived by rape and is further punished by having the child, whom she’s decided that she really wants, die shortly after birth. Amy doesn’t have biological children, but her entire function in the series is basically to act as a mother figure for the other characters and, later, to humanity. It really feels like the women in the story are mostly put into a healer/mother/nurturer mold, and it was very restrictive and frustrating for me as a reader.

Once the viral invasion plot starts moving forward, the book became much more of an enjoyable read for me. I was particularly interested in the ending, and I found it mostly satisfying. If the book had been pared down to make a more streamlined version of the story, I’d rate it higher. As it is, the pacing really hamstrung my enjoyment overall. If you have more patience than I do, you’ll probably find this a good read. Honestly, I was mostly glad to get to the end and find out how humanity fares after the viral apocalypse.

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