Friday, August 23, 2019

Fiction Review: The City of Mirrors

I just finished my 8th (I think?) Big Book Summer book, The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, which is the third and final book in the trilogy that began with The Passage and The Twelve. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced, twisty post-apocalyptic thriller and read its 600 pages in record time, staying up too late every night reading with my headlamp! I liked it even better than book 2, and it was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent trilogy.

The Passage trilogy is about a government experiment gone wrong and a really nasty virus that turns people into vampire-like (but not exactly vampires) "virals." The first book (review at the link) is mostly about everything leading up to the apocalypse: where the virus came from, how it became used for nefarious purposes, what exactly happens to people when they turn into virals, etc. It then jumps forward 90 years after the virus is released into the general population, well into the post-apocalyptic world. Book 2, The Twelve (review at the link- no spoilers), goes back and forth between what happened after the virals first got out and where the first book ended, 100 years later, with small populations of humans left scattered around the U.S. Book 3, The City of Mirrors, begins just a few years after book 2 ended and is focused mainly on a group of survivors who have built a community in Kerrville, TX. Some sections also flashback to Patient Zero, Dr. Timothy Fanning, before he was infected with the virus. For the first time, we see Dr. Fanning as multi-dimensional, from his childhood to his escape to Harvard to the great love of his life, instead of just as a grotesque and evil creature. The narrative moves back and forth between Dr. Fanning's past and the Kerrville group's present, 100 years after the outbreak. They are living a peaceful existence by then, though there are small signs and odd premonitions in a few characters that foreshadow an end to that long-fought-for peace. Eventually, the story moves back and forth between Kerrville three years later and Zero, at the same time, waiting in New York City. But waiting for what, exactly?

As I explained in my review of The Twelve, I found that novel to be a bit convoluted and confusing, though I still enjoyed it and found it engaging. To prevent that same problem (and since it's been 6 years since I read book 2!), I read a detailed synopsis online before I started book 3 and this time, I knew to look for a list if characters at the back. But I also think Cronin did a better job of both updating readers on what happened earlier (in a way that is neatly tied up with the ending of the book, too) and of keeping the focus on a smaller cast of characters this time. The effect was that I was instantly pulled into the action of this third novel and had trouble setting it down for the next 600 pages! As with the earlier books, this novel is fast-paced, action-packed, and filled with suspense. The author has perfectly combined elements of thriller, post-apocalyptic survival fiction, paranormal fantasy, and just plain character-driven drama. I have always loved the way this trilogy creates in-depth characters that you come to care for - in this case, I even had some empathy for the bad guy! Most of all, this well-written, engrossing story is filled with surprises around every corner that often had me gasping or talking out loud to my book (and my husband laughing at me!). It was a very satisfying ending to a unique and compelling series. My husband and son also love this trilogy (my son is next in line for book 3!).

598 pages, Ballantine Books

NOTE: We were excited to see season 2 of The Passage TV show (which we also loved), but I just read it was cancelled - no season 2! Since it was our favorite show last winter, this is a huge disappointment, and I can only hope that a streaming service picks it up and decides to continue it. Season 1 is well worth watching (still available on FOX website and on Amazon - links provided to both in the review linked above).

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audio production of The City of Mirrors. I read all three books in print, but the audio sounds excellent and engaging.
You can purchase The City of Mirrors from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or you can order The City of Mirrors from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I love it when I enjoy a trilogy enough to read them all. Too bad the middle one wasn't as good.

    1. He definitely ended it well, Helen! I don't often read series, but i really enjoyed this one.

  2. You really did rock this challenge. I thought I was doing well with two books, but you are the gold medal winner for this one!

    1. Thanks, Davida! This was my best Big Book Summer yet - also the first time I counted audio books as well as print, so that helps, too :)