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city of mirrors book coverReviewed by Marcus Hammond

Justin Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy began in 2010 with a unique take on the ever-popular vampire genre. The first novel, The Passage, establishes a new world where blood thirsty, mindless creatures are created by the government. In The Twelve, Cronin brings civilization back from the brink of extinction. Now, in The City of Mirrors, order is restored, but a new threat unleashes havoc.

The City of Mirrors picks up several years after the events of The Twelve. Cronin delves back into the world building role he first embarked upon in The Passage to create an atmosphere of hope. Cronin obsessively details the roles of each of his expansive cast of characters in the new world. Each character finds a way to fit into the frontier lifestyle caused by the destruction of society seen in the previous books, but none of them feel safe. The original threat may have been eradicated, but there’s always something lurking in the shadows to take away one’s comfort.

If you’ve read the previous installments, you know that Cronin taps into his inner-Melville when he provides descriptions of events. It is painfully clear what the world after The Twelve is like. He describes everything the characters experience. For at least the first 100 pages or so, this descriptive nature slows the book down to an excruciating crawl. This detail, in combination with the large cast of characters not only creates pacing issues, but also the need to stick with the story. The reader must have an impeccable memory to recall each character and what they are up to if they set the book down, for any amount of time.

While Cronin initially establishes a very interesting antagonist, certain plot developments derail the tension that is built. As densely packed as all the descriptions are, it is the moments that Cronin focuses on Zero (the patient where all the government created virals derive from) that bring suspense to the story. When Cronin develops Zero’s motivations, however, he becomes more petulant and whiny than formidable.

The trilogy, weighing in at around 2,000 pages its entirety, feels like it’s trying to reach the level of storytelling that one would place Stephen King’s The Stand in. The renewed threat that Zero presents to the newly reformed human civilization and the densely packed narrative style make it really hard to maintain emotional attachment to any of the characters. There are moments in The City of Mirrors were this is possible. The final chapter of The Passage Trilogy, however, ends up being more work to read than it is really worth.

Also by Justin Cronin: The Passage


After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.