City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Review

Cover- City of Stairs

Published: September 9, 2014

Publisher: Broadway Books

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 452 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0


Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city’s proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country’s most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

After reading so many positive reviews about City of Stairs I knew I had to pick it up and see why everyone thinks its so great. I purchased the audiobook version of this novel and while it was a slow start, I ended up really enjoying it. I wasn’t crazy about the narrator (Alma Cuervo) at first, but her style began to feel more natural to me as the story progressed. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that I was slow to like this book. By the end I was heavily invested in both the characters and the outcome of the novel and I was enjoying the narration much more

Because I listened to the audiobook I’ll probably hopelessly butcher the spellings of the names, so I’m going to try and find something, anything listing the characters and locations. The story begins with an intelligence investigation of the murder of a controversial historian studying the history of the Continent, which was conquered 80-100 years prior. The people of the Continent are not allowed to worship or even acknowledge the existence of the deities which were slaughtered in the conquering and the historian is blatantly studying this forbidden knowledge. This sounds like this should lead to a very straightforward plot, however it becomes significantly more complex than I initially thought it would.

I was especially fond of Sigrud, who is the equivalent of a fearless Norseman and he is an absolutely multifunctional and effective “secretary”. Shara and Moulaghesh also had some awesome moments, but honestly, nothing beats Sigrud fighting a giant kraken-type monster in the middle of winter covered in a layer of magical lard. Nothing competes with that. Nothing. Shara becomes impressively strongwilled by the end of the novel and I’m totally rooting for her in whatever capacity she appears in City of Blades.

City of Stairs was extremely enjoyable despite the fact that it took me a little while to truly get into it. Would I recommend this? Yes, yes I would. It was a well written, well thought out book with an exotic setting and a really interesting culture. I’m excited to continue on with the series and I’m excited that there’s a third book in the works already!

2 thoughts on “City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Review

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