Ashara Komayd is dead. Or is she? Anyway, hells, yes, Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is ticked off, as he so often is in Bennett’s sound-and-fury trilogy.
Readers of City of Stairs (2014) and City of Blades (2016) know the story: in a world that’s part Frank Herbert and part Tamerlaine by way of Conan the Barbarian, the old gods have fallen to iconoclasts and assassins and new deities, as the states of Bulikov and Saypur struggle back and forth for supremacy. Now Ashara, having long ago proven her worth as secret agent and intercontinental mischief-maker, has risen in the world, putting her, in turn, squarely in the cross hairs. Enter Sigrud, who is no one to tinker with. Vengeful but calculating, he’ll shoot anyone, man or woman, who gets in his way: one of his bolts hits an unfortunate guard “right in the mouth, punching through his front teeth and his lower jaw, maybe lethally penetrating his throat.” Suffice it to say that it doesn’t take Sigrud much time to hunt down the chief bad guy, which is only the beginning of a strange tale in which the already magicky world of Bennett’s imagination gets a little more wobbly as the gods themselves begin to intervene, one of them whisking Sigrud off to parts unknown (“He can see he’s on the Continent somewhere by the way his breath is frosting, but there’s no telling exactly where on the Continent”). Alas, all roads lead to still weirder places, in which piffling trifles like life and death—or immortality and divinity, for that matter—don’t get in the way of progress. Fans will cheer for Sigrud, always a no-nonsense character; he’s definitively macho, but not so much that he’s not glad to have the help of the strong women he meets along the way.
Dark and violent but a tale well spun and with a most satisfying conclusion. Just stay out of the way of the flying fickle Finger of Kolkan….