The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
The City of Mirrors may not seem like a book we would review on this blog, but it’s part of a trilogy that I have really enjoyed. I was thrilled to get an ARC of the final installment of Cronin’s Passage Trilogy. Here’s what I thought…
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Release date: May 24, 2016
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it/buy it here: City of Mirrors
Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from netgalley and Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.
Justin Cronin’s Passage Trilogy began in 2010 with the publication of The Passage. The Passage made it onto many “best of the year” lists including Time magazine and NPR. The books are categorized as apocalyptic/horror novels and have been praised by Stephen King as “a terrific read from beginning to end.”
Prior to the publication of The Passage trilogy, Cronin was best known as an award-winning literary novelist (he won the Pen/Hemingway Award for Mary and O’Neil). The Passage trilogy is a big departure from his earlier literary fiction. In the preface to his third book, Cronin mentions that he was inspired, or “challenged” to write the novels by his then 8-year old daughter who requested he write a story about “a girl who saves the world” and that is what he did.
The trilogy is a series of horror/apocalyptic novels comprised of The Passage, The Twelve, and The City of Mirrors. In the series, humankind is threatened by a virus that was created as a military weapon. The virus transforms test subjects into beings that resemble vampires (although rumor has it that Cronin cringes at that comparison). The action revolves around what happens after the virus spreads throughout the world. It all sounds rather cliché for the genre, but outside of this premise, it’s actually fairly original. The story is complex and beautifully written. The story spans hundreds of years and over the course of the three novels we learn about the events leading up to the creation of the virus, how the virus decimates the human population, and how the few survivors fare in the aftermath. The central heroes start off as kids born into a world decimated by this virus and the group includes some really strong female characters including the “girl who saves the world.” Over the three novels, we follow those same children as they become adults and have their own children and grandchildren. At the heart of the action is a young girl, Amy who is abandoned by her mother and becomes humanity’s last hope for survival.
I really enjoyed the whole series. Reading these books is pure entertainment and escapism that is fueled by excellent writing. The scope is huge and the plot is fast paced and extraordinarily complex with many different moving parts. Reading these books is like being immersed inside a big budget Hollywood movie, but one which is as much about quality writing and plot as it is about the special effects. Cronin’s literary fiction background bleeds into these books in the form of high quality of writing and complex plot structure, but at heart it’s an adrenaline-fueled summer read.
The City of Mirrors is a satisfying ending to an action-packed series and was perhaps my favorite book of the series because it provides a lot of backstory to events that happened leading up to the creation of the virus. Cronin wraps up most of the story lines as he takes us 1000 years into the future of humankind. The plot jumps around in time a lot and we follow our beloved cast of characters (who were children in book one) into their 50s. and beyond. In this book, we find out what happened to the rest of the U.S. and the rest of the world, we find out whether the virals are truly gone, and we find out what happens to all our favorite characters.
SPOILERS FROM THE FIRST TWO BOOKS
The City of Mirrors picks up several years after where we left off at the end of book two. The twelve are dead, the world appears to be free of virals, and remaining humans are rebuilding and starting to let their guard down. The reader quickly learns that things are not as peaceful as everyone thinks and that Zero is alive and well and plotting further destruction and mayhem from underneath New York City. The whole cast of characters are back in this book although each have moved in very different directions.
END OF SPOILERS
There were a lot of biblical references and/or metaphors which I thought were a little obvious and clunky and I came close to an eye roll or two with how the conflict with Fanning (patient zero) panned out. All these books have a “love will save the day” feel and love is a central theme throughout each book (familial love, romantic love, friendship, etc.). However, Cronin is skilled enough as a writer to pull back when getting too close to the line between what is contemplative and what is sappy. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I had a hard time putting it down. The world Cronin creates is so vivid and terrifying that you can’t help but get lost in the dazzling and sweeping narrative.
If you are looking for high brow literary fiction this is not the series for you. If you are looking for a good post-apocalyptic series with quality writing and a highly entertaining plot, these books are perfect. If you read the first two when they came out, I do recommend either rereading them or reading a detailed summary prior to picking up this final book.
On a personal note, I “met” Cronin at his book signing during BEA (book expo). He was funny, very nice, and has the neatest handwriting of any author I have ever met. The line to get his book signed was huge, so clearly I wasn’t the only one excited to meet him.
Want to try it for yourself? The book comes out May 24th and you can pre-order your copy here: The City of Mirrors
We want to hear from you! Have you read any of The Passage books? What did you think? Do you plan on picking up this final book?