City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs CoverCover text
The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now, Bulikov’s history has been censored and erased, its citizens subjugated. But the surreal landscape of the city itself, forever altered by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it, stands as a haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched—along with her terrifying “secretary” Sigrud—to solve a murder.

But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place not be as dead as they seem, and that Bulikov’s cruel reign might not yet be over.

This book was… interesting. It’s a bit of a boring term to use for epic fantasy, but I think it fits the book well. This is not the kind of fantasy I usually read; I tend to read books with more action and suspense in them. Despite that, I was incredibly curious to see how it would end.

Shara enters Bulikov to solve the murder of a famous historian who came there to research Bulikov’s history. A great part of Bulikov’s history was lost after a devastating war. No one knew exactly what happened to the gods who ruled there. Did they really die? Then why did some miracles still work? How could everything collapse in the blink of an eye? I was completely immersed in the story; I needed to know what happened to that world and what was left of it. The story about mysterious gods and the miracles they could perform captured my attention.

The characters in this book were amazing. I was very pleased with how Shara was written: a woman halfway through her thirties, quite plain looking. Very intelligent, but she made some big mistakes that continued to haunt her. I especially loved her relationship with Vohannes and with Sigrud. Speaking of Sigrud:

“Who is… Sigrud?” asks Vohannes.
There is a horrific scream from nearby, and a burst of breaking glass. Then silence. “That is Sigrud,” says Shara.

Sigrud was great. The way he was introduced here was quite extraordinary to me and fits his character well. To me, the characters are one of the strongest aspects of the story. The way Bennett writes isn’t dramatic at all, and this made the character’s emotions feel even more real to me. Perhaps that’s why it affected me so much, when normally I’m not that easily emotionally affected by a book.

This book certainly isn’t for everyone. It has little action and suspense, and the story didn’t really get going until about eighty pages in. But once the story took off, it was difficult for me to put it down to follow classes. There wasn’t a lot going on in the book; the story was focused on the characters and the mystery they had to solve. This means that now I know how it ends, I feel no desire read it again. Lastly, the story is written in the first-person, present tense. It took me a while to get used to this. The characters and the secrets about the gods that were slowly revealed were what attracted me so much to the book. If that’s what you like to see in a story, it’s a good book to read.

Rating: 3.5/5

City of Blades
The sequel to City of Stairs will be released on January 26, 2016. In City of Blades, it seems not Shara but Mulagesh will be the protagonist. She’s one of the characters from City of Stairs. She’s a General who longs for her pension, but after the events of City of Stairs her service is required once more.

City of Stairs
Robert Jackson Bennett
452 ǀ Broadway Books ǀ September 2014



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