Title: The City of Mirrors
Author: Justin Cronin
No. of Pages: 624
Origins: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 24 May 2016
“The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying 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.”
My Thoughts: I have been avoiding writing this review for three weeks and not because I did not enjoy the finale. Rather, I enjoyed it a lot. Yet, the entire time I was reading it, I could not help but recognize that there are going to be many fans who are supremely disappointed. It is not as action-packed as the first novel, and there are huge swaths of flashbacks that seem odd in a third book but are necessary to flesh out Zero as the ultimate villain. While I feel Mr. Cronin brings dignified and fitting ends to these characters who have experienced so much in their lives, I fear that others will disagree. Strongly.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed The City of Mirrors. Using flashbacks, Mr. Cronin fills in the gaps of Zero’s past, and we finally see the connections between Zero and Dr. Lear as well as the reasons for Zero’s fascination with Amy. We get to see all of our favorite characters yet again and what they are doing with their lives since we last saw them. I adore the ending and how he ties certain character arcs up so nicely but leaves others open for interpretation. I think this better reflects reality and is in keeping with each character’s personality. Mr. Cronin’s writing remains powerful and evocative, and the story, for all its trolling of past events, moves along at a rapid pace without skipping key plot points.
That being said, there are several points within the novel that made me laugh out loud or work a bit harder than necessary to suspend disbelief. While there has always been an element of the supernatural to Amy’s powers, Mr. Cronin elevates this supernatural element, thereby giving the story a more fantastical air about it than in the previous two novels. It is not that this shift is bad; it is just that it is a departure from the other two stories and is one of the areas I know will be controversial.
Then there is Zero himself. On the surface, he is an unlikely villain, even if he is ground zero for the virus that nearly wiped out all of humanity. Supremely self-absorbed, he is not the type of person to bother with the rest of humanity, whom he so clearly disdains as beneath him. As he shares his story and the parts in his life that continue to haunt him, you realize just how messed in the head he is. It makes for a chilling realization that our hapless heroes are dealing with a true madman, and we all know how difficult that is. Zero is the penultimate monster.
The most important thing about The City of Mirrors is that we get closure. Closure on Amy – the poor girl who has been a pawn in someone else’s end game for too long. Closure on Zero. Closure on the virus that took out the world. Closure on the characters we first met in the first novel, who left the safety of The Colony to seek answers and found themselves facing things they could never imagine – Peter, Michael, Alicia, Sara, and their entire group. Closure on Carter, one of the only virals to inspire sympathy. Closure on this post-apocalyptic world in which humanity hangs by a thread. After so many pages and years with these characters, you cannot ask for much better than that.
It seems like the first one is everyone’s favorite. But I plan to get to all sometime!
I think the series is impressive, but yes, the first one is the best!
The first one remains my favorite, but I was satisfied with this final addition to the trilogy.
That’s a good way of putting it!
There were, unfortunately, points within the novel that made me laugh out loud. What do you mean Zero is the penultimate monster?
I think I said that because he is bat-shit crazy AND has superpowers AND has had generations to plan and learn AND doesn’t really care about anything or anyone. He has nothing to lose and the craziness to go with it. So, it makes him very difficult to defeat.
That all makes sense but, respectfully, “penultimate” means the second-to-last or second-most. It sounds, in your review as well as your comment, as though you’re actually describing Zero as the ultimate monster because “penultimate” means there’s an even bigger, more powerful villain than Zero.
I was wondering if maybe, elsewhere in the series, there was a villain or monster whom you found even more compelling or scary than Zero, making Zero the penultimate monster. Thanks for the clarification and thanks for the thoughtful review!
Well, ultimately isn’t our our greed the ultimate monster? The deserve to live forever. The need for answers. In the end, isn’t mankind its own worst enemy?
Yeah I liked it but there were things that bugged me. Like that coda. Ugh, the coda.
The coda was definitely odd. I haven’t really heard anyone else discuss the book. I just don’t think that it is going to be as popular as the first book was.