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The City of Mirrors


The City of Mirrors

In a time of zombie-centric storytelling, the Passage trilogy, Justin Cronin’s inventive and literary vampire saga, stands out. THE CITY OF MIRRORS is the third installment and brings to a conclusion this thrilling and vast end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it fantasy.

This final volume begins after the destruction of the Twelve and the transformation and disappearance of Amy, the Girl from Nowhere. Just a hundred years after the viral outbreak that threatened to destroy global civilization and decimated the population of North America, it seems as though the violence brought on by the vampiric “virals” has come to an end. Characters from previous books have been scattered and many lost to each other. Peter Jaxon has settled in Kerrville in the Texas Republic, and is taking care of his nephew, Caleb. Sara and Hollis Wilson are there as well raising their family, with Sara working as a physician. The next generation is growing up in the newly created world.

"This is a big, engrossing book. There are slow spots, but the tension builds nicely, the world is finely drawn, and the characters are irresistible. Cronin concludes his epic series masterfully."

Michael Fisher has discovered an abandoned ship in the Gulf of Mexico and sets obsessively to restore it, led by Lucius Greer’s visions of a safe island for the population to settle. In another ship, Greer tends to the two virals who survived the climactic finale of THE TWELVE, Amy and Carter. They know that the current peace is but a respite before Tim Fanning, also known as Zero, attacks anew, his aim to destroy the survivors once and for all and to cause Amy the greatest suffering. Alicia Donadio, traumatized and infected, finds herself drawn to Zero’s New York City lair and under his power.

After bringing us up to speed on all the main (and some minor) characters, Cronin takes a fascinating detour back before the outbreak, to the biography of Zero himself, Dr. Timothy Fanning. The man introduced to readers begins as an ambitious and studious boy from a small town in Ohio. Accepted into Harvard in the fall of 1989, he meets the people who will shape his life and alter the course of humanity in several ways. The center of his story comes to be Liz, the girlfriend of his closest friend, with whom he has fallen deeply in love. Liz, it turns out, is the reason that Fanning and Jonas Lear find themselves in the jungle where the virus is first contracted. She is the reason that they hope the virus has medicinal properties. But a moment of terrible violence also haunts Fanning and helps seal his fate, as well as the fate of those upon whom the virals are unleashed.

Cronin turns the narrative back to the present day for the characters just as they realize that their complacency has left them vulnerable. The virals, led telepathically by Zero, have been lying in wait and are now returning with a renewed and swift violence. Michael’s ship promises salvation for some but not for all, and others, including Amy, must confront Zero. The action moves to the crumbling wreckage of New York for a final and dramatic showdown. Readers have known since the first book, THE PASSAGE, that humanity survives and rebuilds itself, founded on the myths generated by these events. But in THE CITY OF MIRRORS, the author fills in some important gaps and brings the strands of time together into a cohesive whole.

As in the first two books of the trilogy, THE CITY OF MIRRORS moves back and forth across great swaths of time and follows a good number of interrelated characters. Careful attention must be paid to keep all the information straight. But the effort is worth it as the novel (and the trilogy) is rich and imaginative, and has interesting things to say about human motivations for violence, compassion and survival.

It has been a few years since THE TWELVE was published, so a reread before diving into the complexities of THE CITY OF MIRRORS is recommended. This is a big, engrossing book. There are slow spots, but the tension builds nicely, the world is finely drawn, and the characters are irresistible. Cronin concludes his epic series masterfully.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 26, 2016

The City of Mirrors
by Justin Cronin