The City of Mirrors (Passage #3) by Justin Cronin
Genre: Science Fantasy / Post-Apocalyptic / Horror
Publisher: Orion, 2016
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: The plague that almost ended humanity is finally over. For a new generation, the once-feared virals have begun to seem almost like imaginary monsters, creatures from a fairy tale they no longer believe in.
For Alicia, however, the bad dreams can never be forgotten. And the voice in those dreams is leading her towards one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York.
Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and most terrible product of the viral experiment. And Alicia knows that the nightmare can never truly be over until he is destroyed.
But what she finds is not what she’s expecting.
An opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined, who takes her on a terrifying journey into the past to learn how it all began.
And to find out how it must end.
WARNING: This review will contain minor spoilers for the first two books in the series. No major plot points will be revealed, nor information on who lives and who dies. Read on at your own risk. However, this review is spoiler-free in terms of the plot of The City of Mirrors.
I’m so sad to have finished this series. I started reading it back in 2010 when The Passage was first released. I was hooked from the start. At the time I was only 15. Now I’m 21 and this trilogy has remained with me, as well as remaining one of my favourite series of all time.
So, after the events of The Twelve, peace seems to have finally returned to North America. Or so it seems.
Make no mistake, this final book isn’t just a long, drawn-out conclusion tying up a bunch of pointless loose ends. No way. It’s just as poignant, hopeful and exciting as the first two installments, with an abundance of drama and tension.
The Passage was a rip-roaring read, most probably my favourite book in the series. The Twelve was excellent, however I felt it dragged a little in some places. Not enough for me to lose interest, of course, but still slightly slower in comparison. Thankfully though, it was by no means that dreaded filler book that the second novel in a trilogy quite often is; like The Passage, it had its own clear arc and revelations. As such, I like to think of this series as a vampiric The Lord of the Rings. Like The Fellowship of the Ring, The Passage gets the action started. We learn who the main players are and the identity of the main antagonist (Zero here, Sauron in LOTR), but we’re nowhere near close to defeating him yet. Instead, the antagonist of this first book is a lesser player, Babcock in The Passage and the Balrog of Morgoth in Fellowship. Subsequently, the group splits and moves on to the next antagonist, the main villain’s second-in-command. In The Twelve, it’s, well, The Twelve (or rather, the Eleven); the main virals, Zero’s henchmen. In The Two Towers, it’s Saruman, Sauron’s right-hand man. Now that they’ve been defeated, we’re onto the big one, the main villain, the final adversary who has been pulling the strings behind the scenes all along. Zero here is our Sauron, and The City of Mirrors is our The Return of the King.
Now, that’s where the similarities end, of course. No orcs or hobbits, but the The Passage series is no less epic in its own way. Thankfully, the final installment didn’t disappoint. I finished this book with tears in my eyes, barely able to see the last page. It’s a bittersweet book, a culmination of blood, sweat and tears from the characters (and from the author, I suspect). For years, the characters have struggled against the wasteland they inhabit – where the virals roam and Zero watches on – desperate to finally live in peace. The characters’ arcs reached their conclusion in this book, all in a satisfying way. There is an air of destiny in this trilogy and all the characters fulfilled theirs, whether it be good or bad, but I couldn’t argue that it all felt right. Everything about this book seems deliberate. Nothing is rushed or a coincidence. Everything is clearly mapped from the start, all the fates intertwined, and that’s what makes it a joy to read.
However, this series is all about a girl who saves the world, Amy Harper Bellafonte. Does Amy save it? I won’t say, but Cronin has written a remarkable set of characters, with Amy at the centre. This is a series with a huge cast and here we continue with the lives of Peter, Alicia, Sara, Hollis, Michael and Carter, among many other new characters. And we also finally get to know who Zero, aka Dr Timothy Fanning, really is. Somehow, Cronin has managed to create a villain you feel sorry for. Fanning has done terrible things, but in this book you’ll learn why. I could see the logic behind his actions and I pitied him, yet it didn’t excuse what he’d done; it was time for Fanning to give up his hold on the land.
What I’ve always loved about this story is its mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Like I said, there’s a real sense of destiny in these books, a mysticism in its words, coupled with a raw humanity that I loved, and of course the origin of the vampiric, zombie-like virus isn’t wholly within the realm of science. This is a series of death and destruction, love and hate, joy and sorrow, with no punches pulled, but at its core is hope.
The plot of this book is faster-paced than The Twelve, I would say, and still as exciting as both its predecessors. All loose ends are tied up neatly, including the ending. I thought the ending was really well done. There’s nothing worse than getting attached to a series, only for the finale to be anti-climactic and just plain wrong. Thankfully, this trilogy doesn’t fall into that hole. As I said, I finished this with tears blurring my vision, and that was the case for much of the book.
I don’t really know what else to say. This series is brilliant. Complex, tense, exciting, heart-breaking and hopeful, it’s everything you could ask for. These characters are ones that will stay with me for a long time, as will the story itself. However, it’s not truly over. Before even The Passage was published, the film rights for the series were bought. Ridley Scott is the director so I am extremely excited; I don’t think anyone could do a better job at making these books into films than him. So that’s something to look forward to in the future. For now, I’m going to feel sad probably for a whole week, but also happy. It’s bittersweet to finish a series you loved, especially one as good as this, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you read this series? Or do you want to start it? Let me know in the comments below!