Book Review: The City of Mirrors (Book Three of the Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin is an author at the top of his field and The City of Mirrors is a worthy and much anticipated finish to this exceptional trilogy.”

With the publication of The Passage and The Twelve, Justin Cronin established himself as a genre author to be reckoned with and more than earned the $3.75 million advance that Ballantine paid him for the trilogy. Having written quiet, literary fiction prior to The Passage, he took the horror community by storm and by surprise with his ability to pen such an original and compelling vampire tale and both of those first two books in the trilogy moved to the top of the bestseller charts with astonishing speed. With The City of Mirrors, Cronin sets out to do the seemingly impossible and close the trilogy with a satisfactory final entry, attempting to wind up the stories of a large cast of complex characters and conclude this epic mashup of horror, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic fiction that came on so strongly in the first two books.

The City of Mirrors returns us to the stories of Michael, Sara, Peter, and Alicia Blades, as well as that of Amy, the girl from nowhere. He also introduces some new players that are just as strong and well developed as those original cast members. This is one of the many areas that Cronin shines in. His characters are always perfectly drawn, and his ability to make us truly care about them is remarkable, particularly those mentioned above and their offspring, now grown adults. They are all beautifully broken and their collective story is both uplifting and heartbreaking in this tale that is ultimately about the bonds of love and friendship and the kind of selfless sacrifice that results from them.

Yet another bright star in the firmament of Cronin’s century spanning, sweeping saga are some of the strongest female protagonists to grace the pages of genre fiction in the last several decades. There are no simpering damsels in distress here. Instead you have a rich array of female characters as strong and driven as any male character and, in some cases, even more so. Amy, the Girl From Nowhere is as human as they get, fallible and flawed, emotionally vulnerable and driven by the love she feels for those she wishes to protect. She’s also tough as nails, willing to stand in the face of extreme terror and grave danger to defend humanity from the horrors of the virals and their rage driven leader, Zero. In addition to Amy, the book is thoroughly peppered with such female characters in the personas of Alicia Blades, Sara, and Sara’s adopted daughter Pim. Other than Amy, Pim may well be one of the most well developed protagonists in the book. Both deaf and mute, she is the survivor of vicious sexual abuse that occurred when she was a child and she’s all the stronger for that experience, displaying a depth of stoicism and courage that is unsurpassed by any other character.

Known for his character driven action in the first two books, Cronin is true to form, moving the story along with a masterful blend of dialogue, vivid imagery, and breathtaking, often horrifying action scenes that, with one exception, don’t let up until the well thought out and satisfying conclusion to this unique saga of a vampire apocalypse and the tenacity of the human race. That said, the one exception is something of an elephant in the room. It comes in the form of an almost two hundred page long aside into the backstory of Timothy Fanning, AKA vampire zero, an aside that is a slow, unengaging introduction to a largely unsympathetic character. It’s a fairly major interruption in an otherwise fast paced story, and it really serves no purpose in the overall story other than to paint Zero as something of a spoiled, petulant individual who is angry at the world for the death of his one true love. It would be useful if you hadn’t read the first two books but for those long time fans of the trilogy, you won’t lose anything by skipping over that section and might even gain more enjoyment of the story by doing so.

Overall, The Passage trilogy is one of the best, most unique vampire tales of modern times and, when adding up the whole thing, no single one of its parts is greater than any other and all are necessary and ultimately pleasing additions to the story. Justin Cronin is an author at the top of his field and The City of Mirrors is a worthy and much anticipated finish to this exceptional trilogy.


Publisher: Ballantine
eBook: (624pp)
Release Date: 24 May 2016

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