Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Details
Title: City of Stairs
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
2014, Broadway Books
ISBN: 978-0804137171
Genre: Fantasy

Book Summary
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.

My Review
First of all, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed this book. It is the first book I’ve read by this author and it was a little different than books I usually read, but I liked it. That being said, I also found it to be very dense reading. I almost felt like I was wading through the story. This is not to say that it was not interesting or that I wanted to quit reading it… but the text was very rich. I would not say this was an easy read, but worth it if you’re willing to put in the time.

City of Stairs is set in a fantasy world where there are mortals and divinities. There is also some part human/part god “children” out there. I am not going to go into an explanation of it all here, but basically there were six divinities and they ruled/blessed/created a holy city. This city oppressed the other nations around it until finally someone from a neighboring country rose up and figured out a way to kill some of the gods. Here is where my main objection to the story comes up. I don’t quite understand how a “god” or “divinity” can be killed… but I’ll let it slid for the sake of the story. The city falls into ruins after the gods are killed and the citizens are poverty-stricken and oppressed by their conquerors’.

We meet Shara, a secret operative and “ambassador” to this holy city. She has come to investigate the murder of a famous historian who came to the holy city for research. While she is there, she makes a lot of discoveries, about the gods, the city and a group of people trying to “restore” the old city. Shara is a very complex character. She is intelligent and is fascinated by the old stories of the gods and their miracles. She brings along her “secretary” who is really more of a bodyguard, Sigrud. In my opinion, he is one of the best characters in the book! He is tough and scary, but smart and funny. For a secondary character he is a very deep character and has a rich storyline. You will fall in love with him.

Honestly, this story has so much going on in it that it can’t even be put in a short review for fear of giving something away. If you have any interest in fantasy you should pick it up. There is a bit of everything in this story, romance, drama, battles, mysteries, remarkable world building and interesting characters. And the front cover is kind of awesome too.

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

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