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City of Stairs

City of Stairs

Scritto da Robert Jackson Bennett

Narrato da Alma Cuervo


City of Stairs

Scritto da Robert Jackson Bennett

Narrato da Alma Cuervo

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (33 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
17 ore
Pubblicato:
Jan 1, 2014
ISBN:
9781470380311
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descrizione

An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young fantasy writers. 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 has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, 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 to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.
Pubblicato:
Jan 1, 2014
ISBN:
9781470380311
Formato:
Audiolibro


Informazioni sull'autore

Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. The Divine Cities trilogy was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Series. His new series begins with Foundryside. Robert lives in Austin with his wife and large sons.

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33 valutazioni / 70 Recensioni
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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (5/5)
    Three hundred years ago, the people of Saypur (alt-Indian subcontinent, seems like) managed to kill the gods of their colonizers on the Continent (alt-Russia/Central Europe), which was the only place that had gods. Now, Saypur is the colonizer, and the ravaged remnants of the Continent are deeply resentful. When intelligence operative Shara’s old friend/Saypurian historian of the Continent is murdered in the central city of Bulikov, Shara investigates. And finds out that perhaps the gods aren’t as dead as supposed, particularly the one who’s really, really into inflicting pain. It’s extremely inventive but also very much about the way that those who have evil done to them do evil in return. There’s a small moment where Shara has found an important clue—a path to a place where Divinity still might be—by tracking some Continentals, and tells her compatriot, “I have spent half my life reading about other realities. I’d never refuse the opportunity of being the first to enter one, even with my life at stake.” Cool story, but of course she’s not the first to enter, given the people she very well knows she followed. Although she’s relatively empathetic to at least some of the Continentals, and although she thinks her spymaster aunt is perhaps too focused on Saypur to the detriment of others’ wellbeing, she is still from what is for the moment the master race, and it shows. (From the other books I’ve since read by Bennett, I am wondering whether this moment was even intentional.)
  • (4/5)
    Yeah, this was pretty great. I loved the worldbuilding, the characters, and pretty much had a great time reading it. Can't wait for the next book.
  • (4/5)
    New and amazing world with interesting characters tackling intriguing challenges. This reads very well and balances the fantastic with the bureaucratic. The end was a bit over neat and cute for me - I thing the work would have balanced better with a more ambiguous end, but that is a personal niggle. It's a bummer that the gay guy is the only central character to die.
  • (4/5)
    This book reminded me of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, particularly Ruin of Angels. It's a world of dead gods, colonialism and conquest, and cities caught between past and future. Those parts of the story are good and compelling.Unfortunately the world doesn't have the nuance and depth that I found in the Craft Sequence. The cultures/locations are too directly modeled after real world ones. The portrayal of religion, especially Kolkan, feels like heavy-handed messaging about conservative religions. The characters vary considerably in detail/nuance, with some feeling like they're little more than tropes filling a role.The story wraps up well for the first book in series, but unfortunately that combined with the other flaws doesn't leave me wanting to read the next one.
  • (5/5)
    This is a high 4-stars for me (like 4.3), due to its inventiveness, characters, pace, plotting, and some very good writing. (I got it from the library, and immediately whooshed out and bought it and the next one in paperback).

    I don't think the back cover blurb does it justice--it doesn't convey how zesty this book is. It's filled with zest! It's not a dull dry action piece, it's more like A Suitable Boy meets The Lies of Locke Lamora with a bit of Thraxas thrown in. Smart, engaging, different.
  • (5/5)
    4.5/5 stars

    This was a really good book. It drew me in, and I just had to keep reading.

    In City of Stairs we are introduced to the city of Bulikov, a former Divine City that is now under the power of Saypur. We meet Shara, who is on a mission to find out who killed her friend, but on this mission, she discovers something much greater. The world building in this novel is phenomenal. Each new thing we learn is woven into the story so well, and it was just really good. I didn't feel like there were any info dumps, no useless information given, and it just worked really well.

    I enjoyed the writing as well. The descriptions were so real, and the imagery used in the novel was fantastic.

    The characters were also great. Shara was likeable, confident, and fun to read about. Sigrud was also a really interesting character, and I want to know more about him, and where he came from. Vohannes, was a little mysterious, and overall, added to the greatness of the plot.

    The plot - was so well drawn and paced. I liked how the reveals came about - even if I did guess some of them. There was action when we needed it, and character development when it was needed as well.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this and I can't wait to read the next one!
  • (5/5)
    I think this is the best book I've read this year. I was blown away by the world building and the unique combination of fantasy and mystery (two of my favorite genres!). I loved the main character Shara and her "secretary", Sigrid. Loved the humor and the satire that shows up unexpectedly. It was also a pleasant surprise that the main character is a brown woman. Then there is the language. I actually looked up couple of words while I was reading this. I think the only thing I am disappointed by is that they are not the main characters in the next book. And to think that I had tried this book a while ago and gave up after first few pages because I was bored by the beginning court scene. I decided to retry again because of all the positive reviews and I am so glad I did. I see a lot of binge reading coming up!
  • (5/5)
    I would read this book again just to enjoy Sigrud all over. Maybe my favorite side kick I have read in any book. I loved the opening round of this series. The world building was great and the story never felt stale. Robert Jackson Bennett is quickly moving to the top of my favorite authors list. Plus, you know, Sigrud!
  • (5/5)
    When I requested the uncorrected, digital proof of this book, I didn't know what to expect since there was no description of the plot (or even a real cover) and I was unfamiliar with the author. I took a chance since I thought it would be interesting to be completely surprised by a book. If you read this review, sorry, you don't get to be surprised. You can, however, skip directly to buying this book.This turned out to be an outstanding fantasy novel with a clever plot and wonderful characters. Fantasy is not my usual genre, but I really enjoyed City of Stairs. The story takes place in the ravaged city of Bulikov on the Continent. The Continent was formerly controlled by six Divinities who were all killed in the war between Saypur (a former colony of the Continent) and the Continent. Saypur has banned all mention of the Divinities. Dr. Pangyui, an historian from Saypur, is sent to Bulivov to study the history of the Continent and the Divinities. After Dr. Pangyui is found murdered, Shara Thivani, a young female investigator, and her secretary/enforcer, Sigrud are sent by the Saypur Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate his murder.Bulikov is an interesting world, similar to our own but full of staircases leading to nowhere and magical objects created by the Divinities. Most, but not all, lost their magical properties when the Divinities died. Shara and Sigrud encounter soldiers who turn into flocks of birds, walls that can become transparent, people who disappear, windows that can act as communication devices and monsters that return from the dead. There are also political plots, discredited myths and terrific action sequences.Shara is a strong, honorable, intelligent and resourceful protagonist, but I really loved Sigrud, who simply cannot be nonplussed. He deserves his own book. There could easily be a sequel to City of Stairs, and I would be very happy to read it.I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting story about gods and what happens when they are no more. A police procedural set in a fantasy world. Excellent world building and decent characterizations. I look forward to the sequel. I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for my review, this is no way impacted my opinion.
  • (4/5)
    I have a hard time rating this book because I have two warring feelings about it, and both are strong. On the one hand, this is one of the very best books I have read this year. In terms of character (Shara is possibly my fave protagonist of the year), world building, plot tension, atmosphere, pace, big ideas, this book nails all of them. It is truly a great book.

    On the other hand, it had an unexpected occurrence of one of the tropes I find the most unacceptable: the Dead Queers Trope. I had been SO enjoying the complicated depiction of Vohannes, a man who has loved women and men fully and, quite literally, unrepentantly, his whole life.

    Then to have Vo be only sympathetic major character to die in the whole book? AND be the only major queer? And quite directly as a result of his queerness? That is upsetting! Unnecessary!

    Sigh. This was so close to being one of my favorite books. But then the ending punched me in the face in the way that makes me tired.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book overall. I decided to read this book because I have seen so many glowing reviews for it. Since everyone seemed to think that this is a great book and I like great books, I grabbed a copy and jumped in. I will say that it took me a while to really get into this book. I think that I just really needed to get a good feel for the world and the characters before everything clicked for me. By the end of the book, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.The world that this book was set in was so well done. Bulikov is a city that was once ruled by divine powers until they were all killed. It is now illegal to even talk about these Gods anymore. They are not allowed to study or know their culture's history. The city is ruled by the Saypur and there is a lot of ill feelings towards the ruling class and their rules.Shara was such an interesting character. She is smart and not afraid to take action. She tries to follow the orders of her superiors but will go against them if she believes it is necessary. As much as I liked Shara, I loved Sigrud even more. He was my favorite character in this book. He seemed to do the impossible with ease and it was just a lot of fun to watch. Mulaghesh was great. She was tough and very competent. Mulaghesh and Shara worked well as a team and I really liked how they were able to depend on each other. Vo kept me guessing. I liked him even when I wasn't sure if I should. This book was filled with wonderful characters whose personalities really shined.I would recommend this book to fantasy fans. It is a smartly written story that really keeps you guessing. There was enough action to really keep the story moving. The world building was fantastic and highly imaginative. I plan to continue with this series very soon.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting, modernized fantasy world that has been shaped by both the presence and the destruction of the gods. The story felt to me like a murder mystery with fantasy elements where the 'detective' finds out that there is much more than just a murder going on. The world gave an interesting and bleak take on religion and how that impacts individuals and society. The story follows one character mostly, but her and the supporting cast are great and hold the story together nicely. The prose is pretty good, but in no way took away from the story. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to continuing with the series.
  • (4/5)
    I come away from this "second world" fantasy very impressed. Set in a world where gods literally once walked the earth, at least until they were overthrown by the people who were exploited and oppressed by this regime, enter Shara Thivani, a political officer who has spent too long out in the cold and who serves a regime that may have begun to consume its own young. Much of this story is about how the repressed past refuses to stay buried; be it the reality of the gods, the moral costs of the war to overthrow the gods, or the costs of the life choices that Thivani has made as a patriot.While I have a hard time grasping some of the negative reviews made of this book, in particular, I don't find it anti-religious per se (unless you only judge the depth of a religion by the intensity of its fanaticism) and I don't find Shara to be a "special snowflake" (with all the patronizing intent that term brings to bear), I do have a few issues with it. These mostly relate to the world building feeling a bit inconsistent in terms of mixing social institutions and technology. While I realize that Bulikov at its peak should have a timeless, ahistorical, quality about it I was never quite sure whether I should regard the culture of Shara's Saypur as equivalent to our 18th or 19th or early 20th centuries.
  • (5/5)
    The ancient city of Bulikov was once the home of very real, very powerful gods. Now its gods are dead, the miracles that sustained it are shattered, and the people it once enslaved have become its oppressors. And the one man permitted to study its forbidden history has just been murdered, setting in motion a chain of events no one can predict.I enjoyed the heck out of this one. It's got some really fascinating and original world-building, well-drawn characters, a subtle sense of humor, some fun action, and a good plot with lots of twists and turns. It's not perfect, I suppose. There is some "As you know, Bob"-style dialog that I can't help thinking should have bothered me more than it did, and maybe some slightly heavy-handed touches of religious satire. But I don't care. Overall it was just a great read, enough so that even before I finished it, I'd already ordered the sequel.
  • (2/5)
    I give this book a c- the plot development was way too slow. The cursing and f words were stupid in the context of a fantasy. I also didn’t like the reader. I try to finish what I start hoping, if I hang in there, it might be rewarding. The only reward was that it was finally over. My wife disagrees with me. She thinks it should have had 3.5 stars and she liked the reader. She got into the book after awhile.
  • (5/5)
    Phenomenal. If I have to chose one word to describe City of Stairs, that would be it. Phenomenal.City of Stairs is the story of two countries, the Continent with it’s divine city of Bulikov and Saypur, a land across the South Sea. For centuries Bulikov and the Continent were able to dominate Saypur through the might of Bulikov’s Divinities. Then, a Saypuri man called the Kaj figured out how to kill the gods. Now, the gods are dead and Saypur controls the Continent and the city of Bulikov.When a Saypuri historian is killed in Buikov, in steps Shara Komayd, a high ranking intelligence officer. She’s given one week to find the killer, but she starts to find a whole lot more in Buikov, the city of stairs.One of the best aspects of City of Stairs was the world building. The world felt real, it breathed, it was vivid. Buikov and Saypur came alive. More so, the world felt unique.In a genre filled with medieval Europe based worlds, I loved the diversity of City of Stairs. The cast was largely Saypuri and thus non-white. While I don’t know how accurate this is, I got the feeling that Saypur was based off India.The characterization was also excellent. Shara was a great heroine, and I liked how she wasn’t the only important female character. In fact, she frequently works with Mulaghesh, the female governor of the area. The other secondary characters are fascinating as well.City of Stairs also does a good job depicting moral ambiguity. It never falls into the trap of depicting one side as good and the other as evil. Instead, it creates a complex situation where it’s possible to feel sympathy for both sides. All of this fit well with its thematic exploration of colonialism and oppression, as well as ties to the past versus looking to the future.About half way through, the pacing really took off, and the suspense ratcheted up. It was to the point where I stayed up three hours later than I planned to finish it.I would recommend City of Stairs for fans of Three Parts Dead or for anyone else looking for an intriguing and well written novel.Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this, interesting commentary on religion, but didn't take itself too seriously. Characters were really engaging and some spots of humor.
  • (4/5)
    This one drew me in and kept me reading. There were moments in it that it lagged a bit but overall I found the concept very interesting and the ideas made me think.In a world where one man took on the gods and won, there are still anomalies and miracles and miraculous objects. The Polis banned god-worship and suppressed information and history about them, now a diplomat is caught in a mystery that touches on some of the mysteries of the period and asks more questions of her than she possibly can manage to answer, all because a friend dies in mysterious circumstances.It's a well thought-out world, it has sense and internal consistency and nudges on some concepts used by Terry Pratchett but uses them in a more serious way, none of this is done for comedic value but some of the ideas about gods and their powers echo some of the ideas used by Pratchett, who I know is influenced by older writers, but he's the touchstone for a lot of these ideas with a lot of people.I'm looking forward to seeing more in this series and more by this author.
  • (5/5)
    Bennett's not an author who's been on my radar - and that's going to have to change.

    'City of Stairs' is a top-notch fantasy spy thriller.

    It begins with a murder mystery... noted scholar Ephrem Pangyui has been killed in the city of Bulikov. Soon, Shara arrives on the scene to investigate.

    Her job is complicated, however, by the fact that just about everyone in Bulikov is a suspect.

    For hundreds of years, the Continental empire, of which Bulikov was the capital, ruled the Saypuri with a strong hand. Bulikov, bolstered by its six deities and their very real miracles, was an unstoppable power. Until, around a generation ago, a Saypuri leader discovered a way to murder the gods.

    Quickly, the power structure toppled. The destruction of the gods and their miracles caused physical destruction and magical 'glitches' the likes of which Saypuri could not have predicted - but which they rapidly took advantage of. Now, Bulikov is a conquered city, squirming under the foot of powerful Saypur. Any reference at all to the religions and gods of the past is forbidden. All remaining magical artifacts and historical writings have been warehoused, and are forbidden to natives of Bulikov.

    Naturally, resentment rides high. Pangyui, the murder victim, was a Saypuri, allowed to research and investigate a history now legally denied to its rightful inheritors.

    However, Shara is determined to find the killer - because Pangyui was someone she personally knew and liked. Luckily for her, she's not merely the lowly 'Cultural Ambassador' that her credentials claim - she's well-connected to the rulers of Saypur. She's also got her sidekick, Sigrud, a juggernaut of a man, with obvious talents as well as hidden depths.
    Working against her, however, is the uncomfortable fact that it looks like the powerful city leader that she'll need to ingratiate to help her navigate the murky tunnels of Bulikov's politics just happens to be her college boyfriend - and she ended that relationship on a rather unpleasant note.

    Of course, as Shara digs into the circumstances of the crime, what she uncovers is far larger than a single murder. The plot progresses at a fast pace; it's tense and action-packed.

    The world-building is great - the politics are complex and nicely-believable (yep, corruption, short-sightedness and self-interest everywhere). Half-ruined Bulikov is aesthetically wonderful: grimy, weird, destroyed, but still alive and trying to recover from its setbacks. The cultures are well-drawn, and the characters shown are believable products of their cultures. Nearly everyone here is both flawed and sympathetic [well, to an extent], and even the more reprehensible individuals are comprehensible in their motivations. it does a great job of portraying real people caught in a problematic political situation.

    There are parallels with our world - this 'feels' like an alternate 18th century (photography has just been invented). The Continentals have a definite Eastern European feel. Saypur is, perhaps, South Asian. Sigrud, unsurprisingly, is from a seafaring Scandinavian-type place. However, there are enough surprising details to give the books a markedly fresh and original flavor which transcends genre.

    Highly recommended.

    Many, many thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy and the opportunity to read this book.
  • (4/5)
    Very very absorbing and intriguing. I still have to sort my thoughts out about this book because of the depth and complexity of the themes woven around a fluid action-filled mystery story, and its finale. City of Stairs made me feel and think. I'd love to read more set in this masterfully-created world.
  • (4/5)
    Fun book with strong world building. A little heavy handed on the darker side of religion, but not enough to turn me off. Shara is a strong main character, but Sigrud, her secretary, steals the show. I would gladly read another book featuring him. A solid read for Fantasy fans!
  • (5/5)
    Seventy-five years ago the enslaved colony of Saypur rose up against their masters from the Continent, and defeated them in battle. More than that, they killed the gods that had kept the Continent protected for centuries. But the death of the gods had unforeseen consequences, on the Continent reality fractured, the climate changed and everything built by the gods was immediately destroyed. Thousands upon thousands died, whether of the immediate destruction or of the plagues that followed when the protection of the gods was removed.Now the Continent is a desperately poor and underdeveloped land subject to the law of Saypur, and any mention of the former divinities is strictly forbidden. So the investigations of the Saypuri historian Dr Efem Pangyui into the Continent's history are deeply unpopular: why should a Saypuri historian be allowed to know what is forbidden knowledge to the people of the Continent? So when Dr Pangyui's body is found in the city of Bulikov, the Saypuri government send their most experienced intelligence officer to investigate. But this is no ordinary officer, Shara is the great-granddaughter of the Kaj, the Saypuri who led his people to triumph over the hated Continent, and who discovered the one weapon that could be used against its gods. But Shara soon comes to realise that things in Bulikov are much more complex than she had believed, and that the gods might not be as dead as everyone thinks ...This is one of the best fantasy novels I've read for some time. The world of the Continent and Saypur are very well realised, an alternative magical Earth, but with definite parallels in places to actual history. There are some complex and rounded characters too. Shara's side-kick, the strong and silent Sigrud, is fairly one dimensional, but I can forgive that. Overall a great read.
  • (3/5)
    There once was a glorious empire where Gods rules different states. The Gods were all different, one was really really harsh and had a thousand rules to follow. To the south there was a slave colony, they had no Gods and they were angry and overthrew the empire and killed the Gods and all beings created or birthed by the Gods.

    And now it's decades later. The colony is now the glorious one, and the empire fell asunder when the Gods died. The fabric of reality fell apart, whole cities disappeared. Plague decimated the states. Now they are poor and forgotten.

    I felt for the conquerors, they had been used badly. But they destroyed a civilization. So f you guys. But then the former empire had been idiots too. Still now they were not even allowed to learn their own history, mention the Gods names or do anything that was "bad". And they really needed to be able to move on, but were held back.

    I have not even talked about the plot yet! Ok, so this professor is murdered and Shara (who has her secrets) comes to investigate. There is something going on in the former holy city of Bulikov, but can she find out what? Bulikov is also a city that half disappeared when a God was killed there. And there are staircases leading into nothing and people going missing. A strange strange world.

    I think I could go on and on about the world, it was just fascinating, and even more so when I learn more about the Gods of the world. A very cool world. It was a different sort of fantasy too. Set later in time, making it more modern, yet not.

    Politics, a mystery, set in a sort of Russian city. A cool heroine, a viking sidekick and all in all truly strong women characters. It was the women that ruled this book. I approve of that ;)
  • (5/5)
    What is reality? Is it something solid and independent of us, each and every one of us? Or is it created by what we believe, and how we think it is? Can we make the world change by merely creating a shared reality that we all agree to live within? And if so, how can that be altered? Can it be?Saypur, once a vassal state to the Continent, enslaved, kept poor and controlled, suddenly, by the hand of one man, the Kaj, manages to kill the Divinities that provide the power and knowledge to the Continent. And then, with their protection gone, Saypur goes on to conquer the Continent and turn the tables utterly.Generations later, a young woman, Shara, who has served Saypur as a spy and provocateur, arrives at the central city on the Continent, the city the Divinities had created as their own, to investigate the death of a rather unimportant professor who'd been sent to Bulikov by Shara's superior. Shara arrives, and as she delves into the reasons for the professor's death, she finds out that what the professor has discovered could very well change everything.This was a terrific read. A strong female protagonist, a complex plot, world-building that was deep and elaborate and well-planned. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a fantasy that has depth and thought behind it.I received this book for a review through Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    It has been quite some time since I've given a five star rating to anything, but City of Stairs truly deserves it. Every element of the story simply works. Let's start with the setting, the City of Bulikov, built by the Gods, only to fall into ruin after those Gods are destroyed and the citizens culture is suppressed by their new rulers. This would be an amazing setting for an Urban Fantasy, but that's not really what this book is, though there's still time to have some fun with monsters and miracles. Author Robert Jackson Bennett is much more interested in exploring themes of post colonialism as he crafts a fine murder mystery and political thriller in this world of the conquered. I'm reminded a lot of the works of China Mieville, but while Mieville can sometimes let his imagination get the best of his stories, Bennett never lets the story out of his control. From start to finish this is an imaginative, masterfully told novel that I cannot recommend highly enough.
  • (5/5)
    It's been some time since I read a book I enjoyed so much that I wished it wouldn't end. Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs (September 2014, Broadway Books) is one of those books. Gorgeously written, epic in scope, and brimming with big ideas, City of Stairs should be on your must-read list for 2014.Welcome to the ruined city of Bulikov, center of the Continent and Seat of the World. The Continentals, once favored by the gods, have been cast down, and their holy city occupied, by their former slaves, the Saypuri. A generation earlier, the great Saypuri hero, the Kaj, developed a weapon capable of killing the Divinities, and used it to liberate his people. The Kaj's slaying of the builder Divinity, Taalhavras, resulted in a cataclysmic moment known as "the Blink," when the removal of the divine architect's magics reordered reality, wreaking such havoc that Bulikov is still in ruins decades later. As the novel opens, the Saypuri, now the premier world power, occupy Bulikov, ruling the restless Continentals and denying them the right to speak of their fallen gods.Whew. You still with me? It's better the way Bennett tells it, more seamless, more natural, and in a way that's deliciously agonizing: What happened to the Divinity Kolkan? Is he going to explain it? Spoiler: He does. I believe Bennett has achieved with City of Stairs what might be termed "page turner" status.The action begins when Shara, a top Saypuri agent, arrives in Bulikov to investigate the murder of the Saypuri historian Efrem Pangyui. Saypur had dispatched Pangyui to investigate the Divinities, to learn why it was they favored the Continentals at the expense of the rest of the world. Of course, having access to the Continental legacy, access the Saypuris deny the Continentals, made Pangyui enemies. Pangyui's murder isn't so straightforward, of course; Shara's investigation points to layers of conspiracy...The plot of the book, as Byzantine as it is (and I say that as a compliment) takes back seat to Bennett's world building. Hear me out! If you're like me, you're weary of the world building fad, an overused device that should support, rather than supplant, the act of storytelling. City of Stairs is an example of world building done right. (Seriously. Broadway Books, put that on the cover and sell it to all the aspiring writers out there. They need this.) Bennett's world feels natural and alive. The age of miracles ended when the Kaj killed the Divinities (and his armies rounded up and slaughtered their "children," fairies, nymphs, and other, more exotic, creatures). Shara and her cohort inhabit a fallen world in which it's illegal for people to mention the Divinities' names, but where some followers still adhere to their gods' laws. Kolkashtanis, followers of the Abrahamic lawgiver and meter-out of punishment, Kolkan, insist upon modesty, and are horrified by women's seductive "secret femininity." Most impressive, Bennett achieves this level of detail seamlessly and naturally: He invites the reader into Bulikov. Of course, even the best books suffer from problems, and City of Stairs is no exception. The Dreyling (read: Viking) Sigrud, the muscle to Shara's brains, appears to be a fan favorite, but, to this reader, at least, was one dimensional, especially in contrast to Shara's inner life and the conflicted emotions of her former lover, Vohannes Votrov. Sigrud, capable of any physical feat, has been robbed of meaning and pursues death. Attentive readers will be able to predict Sigrud's fate soon after Bennett introduces him.The plot, although wonderfully complex, feels, by the end of the book, to be too finely planned. There are no loose ends; every thread is accounted for. While that degree of closure might be satisfying to some readers, it lends an artificial air to the book's ending. Certainly, readers will have suspended disbelief early on, when they learn that gods and men once (literally) walked and talked with one another. But it's the old conundrum of convincing readers that something fantastic is real, only to break the spell by noting something mundane but incorrect, like the top hat Ben Franklin wore. The very comprehensiveness of the story's resolution strains credulity--but this is a minor quibble, given the book's strengths.Bennett, too, engages in some very obvious and, at times, heavy handed commentary. There is something provocative, of course, about deicide. Kolkan, a stand-in for the Abrahamic god, is cast in particularly poor light, as are his adherents (although, to his credit, Bennett makes even Kolkan a more complicated character that readers might expect at first blush). The followers of Olvos, the Divinity who disappeared millennia previously, wear orange robes, eschew wealth, and serve their fellows, an obvious reference to Buddhism, or, at least, its ideals. Ultimately, the relationship of people to their gods is revealed to have existed in a way that points towards Bennett's message for his readers (a message that this reader found understandable but unrealistic). Complaints aside--and they are minor ones, I assure you--City of Stairs is a remarkable book. Readers have asked if City of Stairs is "epic fantasy" or "urban fantasy." The answer, as cute as it might be, is both, and neither. City of Stairs is not readily classifiable; it plays with, and transcends, genre. Fantasy has painted itself into a corner with its retread of the same tired tropes on one hand and its retreat into nihilistic "grimdark" on the other. City of Stairs is the antidote to that conundrum: It is fantasy's way forward. City of Stairs is highly recommended and not to be missed.
  • (5/5)
    4.25-4.5 StarsA fantasy political thriller and mystery novel with some great characters, a good plot, and some terrific world-building. The female MC is a smart, strong, but unassuming spy. Her awesome Viking-like sidekick is a larger-than-life bodyguard, assassin, and assistant in one. The book is well-written and intelligent. The beginning is just a little slow, but the pace picks up soon (once it does, it's hard to put it down). Recommended for fans of fantasy and political mysteries.Blogging for Books
  • (5/5)
    This was an immensely enjoyable book. So intriguing and it kept me guessing. From start to finish, I was hooked.I definitely recommend to everyone.
  • (5/5)
    Robert Jackson Bennett is one of my new favorite authors. I had never heard of him before this book, which is surprising given the awards his previous books have won and been nominated for, and I'm adding his other books to my to-read list. If you're reading this review, stop right now and go pick up this book. Get on the hold list at your local library (or request that they purchase a copy), pre-order it for your own home, but get a copy. If you're still reading, you must want me to tell you more about the book, so the rest of this is for you.City of Stairs is almost so many different genres, but though it firmly remains fantasy, it is by no means the medieval sword-and-sorcery fantasy so many of us are used to. It's almost historical, given the vast amount of history that Bennett builds into his world. It's almost "armchair travel" because it is international, but it doesn't seem to be any past or future version of our world. It's almost dystopian, but it's the dystopian future of a fantasy society after the deaths of their gods. It's almost mystery, because the main character comes to Bulikov to investigate a murder, but in the end that question is the least important thread of this story.A prominent Saypuri historian is murdered in the Continental city of Bulikov, and shortly afterward, Shara, publicly a Saypuri bureaucrat and secretly a Saypuri intelligence officer, arrives in Bulikov to investigate the murder with her giant of a "secretary" in tow. She uncovers details about the Continent's history, the truth of the gods, and her own history that completely alter her worldview and that may mean the destruction of everything Saypur has built if she can't stop the people intent on restoring the Continent to its former glory.A lot of people think that excellent world building takes epic-length tomes and sometimes multiple volumes, but in 448 pages, Bennett created an interesting, detailed, historied world so rich I could just sink into it, while simultaneously telling a story that was tightly-plotted, tense, and exciting. I also fell in love with the characters. Shara and Sigrud were both amazing, and all I can do is hope that there will be a sequel.**Full disclosure: I received a free ARC copy of this book through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.**