First, let me say I really enjoyed the first two books of the City trilogy. Procession of the Dead is my absolute favorite of Shan’s books, and Hell’s Horizon was one of the best mystery stories I read in years. Both books had one of the most memorable supporting characters in recent memory, that of the Cardinal. With that said, I was somewhat disappointed with this final chapter.
It’s not that City of the Snakes wasn’t a good book. It was. It brought back both Capac Raimi and Al Jeery as point of view characters, though it mostly focused on Jeery. I don’t know if that was the best decision on the writer’s part using Jeery so extensively. I sometimes felt like I was reading the scrapped ending of Hell’s Horizon. I think, maybe, if the early Capac segement had been extended slightly and interwoven with the beginning of Al’s tale, it would’ve been a little easier to swallow. Things like the introduction of the harpies, meeting Bill’s brother, and general recapping of the previous books could have come earlier. In Capac’s segment, less appearances of dead Ayuamarcans would’ve been better, too. Limiting it to characters important in this book, like Paucar Wami and Ama Situwa, would’ve made the story flow better, I believe.
An early meeting, or perhaps flashback, of Capac and Al would’ve been appreciated as well. As far as I can remember, the climax of this book was the first time the two had met. They clearly know each other, at least in a minor capacity. I just can’t believe that Capac, the Cardinal, would let Paucar Wami run unchecked in the City for a decade.
The time jump is another thing. It’s simply too long, for the Al Jeery side of the story at least. I just can’t believe that he wouldn’t have gotten any leads on Bill’s whereabouts in all those years. As a former Troop, he would have some idea of the Cardinal’s vast amount of resources and information at Party Central, and would have long ago attempted to find some way to get in.
I feel like the harpies weren’t fleshed out enough, and we should’ve seen them a few more times, given their importance in the story. Al was captured too many times, and Paucar Wami appeared way too much for a character who died in both of the previous novels. There were too many pages of Al just sitting in his apartment, thinking about what the reader already knows, or telling Ama what we already know (this is a problem Shan did not have in his children’s books). His sex scene with Ama felt unrealistic. The Snakes should’ve been incorporated into the larger story earlier, maybe even with hints and foreshadowing in the previous books.
I think Shan’s used to having many books to set up his stories, and this, which was written as he was still writing the first drafts of the first of the Cirqu du Freak series, was finished before he had the experience necessary to satisfyingly end a series. When the time came to edit it for publication last year, he probably found himself in a corner. He had already firmly stated that this would be a trilogy. He had already faced backlash with changing the number of books in the Cirque du Freak series, and was in the middle of working on The Saga of Larten Crepsley and his next unnamed series for teens. He didn’t have time to write another book or two in the City series. So, he edited it and made it the best book he could, and then published it.
I will say, though, that the climax was entertaining. From the moment Al, Ama, and Wami entered the tunnels I was on the edge of my seat. The conclusion, however, felt like cliffhangers. Al’s leaving, we know nothing important will happen to him ever again, but we’re not certain Bill destroyed Paucar Wami, so who knows? (I also wish the confrontation with Bill has come after Capac’s rescue: it’s the real end of Al’s story, and as Al is the real hero of the City books, it should’ve been saved as long as possible). Ama’s off living with Cafran, but she still loves Capac. Will she go back to him? How long will Ford Tasso live? Will the alliance between the Cardinal’s empire, Davern’s white-supremicist group, and the Snakes last? And what will happen with Capac Raimi, who has an eternity to kill? Does he die if his doll is destroyed? I don’t know, and never will.
I really wished Shan would’ve created a third P. O. V. character, to take up the middle of this book. Then it could’ve been broke up in to three acts. Act I: Capac Raimi. Act II: New Protagonist. Act III: Al Jeery. Oh, well. In the end, it was a decent book, but I expected a great one, given it’s predecessors. I’m pointing out the flaws, but it has many strengths, too, and should be read by people who enjoyed the first two. But please, don’t start with this book. Though, if you’ve read this whole review, I’ve spoiled everything already anyway, I guess.
Oh well. At least it didn’t end with time travel.