The City Of Mirrors, the final chapter in Justin Cronin's epic vampire trilogy of a post-Apocalypse world dominated by vampires, begins with the literary equivalent of the much-used television device: "Previously on the Passage..." What follows is a rather neat recap of the previous novel, The Twelve, written in an evangelical style that might be "The Gospel According to Justin."
This was useful for two reasons. First, The Twelve was published in 2012, and with an aging memory four years is a long time to wait for the next installment. Second, and most importantly, I never really understood what happened in the novel in the first place. The Twelve was a chaotic, confusing book that failed to deliver on the terrifying promise of The Passage, which was exceptional.
So the question I had on setting off into the final chapter was: will the third part rescue or kill the trilogy?
Happily, it was the former. Cronin has delivered a dramatic, smart finale to his series full of great storylines, pulsating writing and an action-packed denouement. But this is more than an ordinary vampire story, it's a multi-layered exploration of what it is to be human and I found it endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking. And it's a surprising novel in many ways, taking a long but diverting path through the lives of young undergraduates at pre-virus Harvard as it filled the back story, flowering into a story of great love and devastating loss.
The main thread of The City Of Mirrors takes place about 20 years after the events at the end of the previous when 'The Twelve', carriers of the virus and leaders of the vampiric hordes that have destroyed civilisation, are killed. The remnants of known humanity are living in the walled city of Kerrville Texas, and starting to feel sufficiently comfortable that the vampire threat has disappeared that they are setting up small communities outside the walls. Unbeknown to them, while The Twelve are no longer a threat, Patient Zero, the original carrier of the virus remains alive, active and vengeful in his Manhattan lair.
As Zero finally moves the novel evolves into one last great battle for survival for the Kerrville community, led by a familiar cast including Peter Jaxon and guided by the enigmatic Amy.
While the novel doesn't really come close to touching the iridescent brilliance of The Passage, I found it a more-than-satisfying conclusion to a trilogy I feared has lost its way, and more than once it kept me reading late into the night. Cronin ties up plentiful loose ends in a frenetic finish although not enough that there isn't scope for more from this world.