June 23, 2018
Hugo Reading 2018: City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett
This is the third book in the Divine Cities trilogy, and wraps up the story in a sad, bittersweet, yet ultimately triumphant fashion. The protagonist this time around is an older, wiser and (at the beginning at least) broken Sigrud, the ruthless killing machine companion of the first book and the shattered grieving father of the second. This time around, thirteen years after the events of the second book, Sigrud is called back to action by the presumed death of his mentor, the former Prime Minister of Saypur, Shara Komayd.
Things are not as they seem, of course. This storyline is the most complex and layered of the three; the reader has to follow it pretty carefully. We have children of the Divine, one of which can manipulate time; another who, when younger and before coming into his full power, was captured and tortured by Shara's aunt, Vinya Komayd; and finally, Shara's adopted daughter Tatyana, who has no idea she is a Divine child. But this is just a pale recitation of this complex plot, where the mistakes and hubris of the past, not just for the people of Saypur but the Divinities themselves, come roaring back to bite them and nearly results in the destruction of everything.
One of the themes of the previous book, City of Blades, was war and the price paid by soldiers. The overriding theme of this book, it seems to me, is similar but subtly different: power. The cost of possessing it, the stark contrast between those who have it and those who don't, and the arrogance of those who do. The climax of the book comes down to the choice Tatyana makes, to keep that terrible godlike power for herself and burn the world down, or give it away and save it. She chooses the latter (which creates a new and different set of problems, humans being what they are), and in the process remakes the world.
This entire trilogy is just outstanding, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. I'm still reading the Best Series nominees, but I already know what's going at the top of my ballot.