The hardback edition of this book has recently been released and I’d read a lot of very positive comments about it, so when I had the chance to scoop it up on NetGalley, I couldn’t resist it.
“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.
A firm warning – while there is a quick roundup at the start of this book, I do think that if you haven’t read either The Passage or The Twelve you are going to flounder. This book dives right into the middle of the action, featuring an extensive cast of characters and drives the narrative forward by flipping from one character’s pov to another with only a paragraph break to denote the viewpoint change. It means you have to stay sharp and pay attention. And I wouldn’t want to grapple with who was whom if I hadn’t already just finished The Passage immediately before starting to read The City of Mirrors.
Apart from anything else, this series is such an interestingly different take on the apocalyptic genre, you’ll gain so much more from this slice of the adventure if you have a greater appreciation of what went before. Cronin whisks us up and changes gear once more – the only common thread being a handful of the main characters as the threat of the dracs or virals appear to be gone for good. Humanity in North America is once more spreading out from the floodlight fortresses where they’d been penned up and families are yearning to farm, instead of patrol with weapons.
However, a handful of folk are not convinced it’s all over… The tension is palpable from the beginning of this book and continues to grow. We follow the fortunes of Amy, Fanning and Carter – as well as the Jaxon family and their friends. Cronin is a remarkable writer, managing to weave lyrical passages about the landscape, their way of life, the sense that it’s not over in amongst the ever-rising action. This book also gives us a sustained close encounter in first person viewpoint with the ultimate antagonist in this catastrophe – Fanning. I found myself enjoying his self-deprecating humour and sad that his lack of confidence prevented him from reaching out for the love of his life when he had a chance. This is a masterclass in how to humanise the inhumane and make the reader sympathise with a monster.
I was all set to give this book an unqualified 10 – and then we got to the final section. It simply doesn’t work for me. I was disturbed by how very 21st century life is, right down to motorised transport and dress codes although clearly very little has survived from before the apocalypse. And when we got to the very final act… nope. For once, I felt Cronin allowed his affection for his remarkable character override the natural story arc as it slid into a rather sentimental finale. That said, I’ll forgive him that. Because of the very episodic nature of the story, the unsatisfying conclusion isn’t the dealbreaker it would have been in a continuous narrative timeline. It is still a remarkable book and if you enjoy apocalyptic fiction and haven’t yet encountered this series, go and track down The Passage. Even if you aren’t all that keen on apocalyptic fiction, but like well-told science fiction, then still track down The Passage. This series is something special.