OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I was awaiting “City of the Snakes” since the moment I finished “Hell’s Horizon”. I knew that the third book would be taking a time leap and would be featuring characters from both the previous books. After liking the weird but excellent start to the series, I was curious how the author planned to end the series and how would Capac and Jeery interact with each other and what would this mean for the City.
The story opens up ten years after the events of Procession of the Dead and we find that Capac has indeed risen to the top however he’s not been completely able to control his environment. He wonders whether he did the right thing in the climax of Procession of the Dead as things haven’t gone smoothly as per the Cardinal’s predictions. His henchmen have been constantly betraying him and somehow he has started seeing ghosts of past personae. Convinced he’s slowly losing his mind, he turns to Ford Tasso to help him however before he can be of any service, Capac is reunited with a particular person from his past. His besotted entanglement however leads him down a path from where return is nigh impossible. Al Jeery is then contacted by Ford Tasso to locate and retrieve Capac, that however is easier said than done as the usual suspects are the city’s worst kept secret, its Incan priests. As Al slowly makes his way through the twisted lanes of the City, he starts realizing that perhaps Capac was seeing something concrete after all. And the worst nightmare the City has ever faced, the deadly psychopathic assassin Paucar Wami, has returned and perhaps he will want to find out what Al has been up to for the past ten years.
This book is the last book in the trilogy and therefore it does bring into play all the characters which have been introduced so far. This is a good move on the author’s part as it further raises the scales. There is a theme of redemption which plays out between the pages and all characters have to face it. The plot of the book is coalesced a bit from the first two as in the first we had a crusade of one person to rise to the top and in the second there is the search for the missing person. This book manages to combine both these elements and gives the reader something new and familiar at the same time. The plot manages to recreate the intensity of the previous books while giving the characters a push in a newer direction. Both the POV characters are charismatic ones and while Capac does get a smaller role of sorts, he does manage to convey his growth as a character and a crime lord. The real scene stealer is Al Jeery who has spent the last ten years trying to live up a legend so he can find the man who has led him to become the very thing he despises. Al’s growth is very vividly described and the events of this book further test his mettle.
The prose does not disappoint in this one after the excellent turns in the previous books as the author vividly shows the city, its Incan priests and the strange world wherein they inhabit. The book has a strong climax and manages to tie up all the threads which have been introduced so far. I felt this was rather excellent because as a reader I got complete closure from the story. The author also has been brutal with all of his characters as many meet their ends and those who are left alive are worse for wear. Lastly I think the way the author ends the story is rather a mystical one, one can draw inferences from it about what might have happened and all possibilities stand true. The bittersweet nature of the ending does justice to this dark tale and this ending is one which cannot be predicted as well.
Drawbacks were few but present, namely that Capac gets a reduced role. While from a plot point-of-view it is justified, the reader would have definitely benefitted from seeing more of his grey nature. The ending to the story while action-packed ends with a literal bang and perhaps some readers might have liked to read a few more details about it. The book does do its best to keep the tension and intrigue throughout its pages however the weirdness sometimes does overwhelm it.
CONCLUSION: A powerful ending to a dark saga, the characters of the City are not ones which the reader will easily forget. City of the Snakes is a good book to end out a trilogy and it remains to be seen what readers down the line will make of it when they read all the three books together. I for one, enjoyed this gritty, weird urban fantasy story about power, corruption and the redemption of one’s soul. A must read for all readers of the previous books and for those who like their stories dark & with a slice of Noir.