Sunday, March 27, 2016

"The City of Mirrors" by Justin Cronin starts out slow but is an ultimately satisfying finale to The Passage trilogy

Fans of this trilogy have waited a long long time for the ending and it is finally here.  You absolutely should not read this book without having first read "The Passage" and "The Twelve."  If you have time, I strongly recommend re-reading (or listening to the audiobooks) the first two books before starting this book.  I know that is a lot of reading -- these books are big time commitments to read -- but I wish I had made time to re-read (or at least skim through) them again before starting this book.

The reason for revisiting the first two books is because it has been so long since The Twelve came out that I had not only forgotten a lot of the details of what happened in the first two books, but more importantly I had lost my emotional connection to the characters.  This meant it took me a long time to get invested in what was happening.

I have a warning for the fans of this trilogy who love the parts where the characters are fighting the virals/dracs and who didn't really care for the parts of the previous books that were more background or emotional -- you might have a hard time with the first couple hundred pages of this book.  But hang in there -- the payoff is worth it.

The book starts with a prologue that is a summary of what happened in The Twelve in the form of passages from a "historical book" presented at one of the global conferences on the North American Quarantine Period that have been a part of all the books.  This helped a little in reminding me what happened but not nearly as much as if I had re-read the books.  Then the book starts with a section on what Alicia did after the end of The Twelve, jumps three years to Texas, where most of the characters are living in what they believe to be a post-virals world. Then the story jumps back to Alicia where the reader learns the background of Zero/Fanning.  I don't want to go into any details because I don't want to spoil the book for anyone.

Fanning's story is a significant chunk of the first half of the book.  Readers who are anxious for viral-fighting action might be inclined to skip over it, but don't give in to the temptation.  (I am a notorious skipper and in fact succumbed once again, only going back to Fanning's story after I got a preview of what was coming ahead.  Don't be like me or you will spoil the book for yourselves.)  Fanning's story lays out the overall theme of the book and all the rest of the "background" parts of the story further embellish the theme as well as setting up the characters for what is to come.

I have always described these books as epic literary vampire thrillers and the first half of this book definitely puts the capital "L" in literary.  Even when I was impatient at the pace, the lovely quality of the writing captivated me.  It is not for nothing that the author is a literature professor -- he can write!

The author may also be a fan of classic vampire movies.  There are a couple visual references to the classic Dracula and Nosferatu movies that I really enjoyed.

It takes around 250 pages before the action starts heating up, but threads from those first couple hundred pages will wind their way through the rest of the book so don't just blow through them to get to the action!  It took me more than a week to read the first half of the book -- and during that time I was thinking it would be a 3 or 4 star book -- and only two days to finish the last half.  By the end it had reached the 5 star level for me.

By the last major section of the book, I was back completely emotionally invested in these characters and everything they had been living through.  That emotional connection had me tearing up numerous times over the last hundred or so pages -- and flat out bawling my eyes out as many more times.

This book answers a lot of questions that have been lingering over the first two books.  Why were scientists looking for this virus in the first place?  Why experiment on a little girl? Why was Amy different than the others? What is the story with the Global Conference that keeps turning up in the books?  And at the same time it raised more questions -- questions I can't put in this review or it will spoil parts of the book for readers!

The overarching theme of this book is love -- which seems strange for an epic literary vampire thriller.  All different kinds of love (or the lack of love) wind their way through the book.  Romantic love, unrequited love, familial love, and the love of long-time friends.  That depth takes this from being just another thriller to being something truly special.

I recommend reading this whole trilogy.  Read it even if you don't think you like vampire novels because it is just that good.

I received a free Advance Readers Copy of this book free through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.