Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Review - City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett and Giveaway - September 9, 2014

City of Stairs
Series:  City of Stairs 1
Author:  Robert Jackson Bennett
Publisher:  Broadway Books, September 9, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
List Price:  $15.00 (print)
ISBN:  978-0-8041-3717-1 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young SF 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.

Qwill Thoughts

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett is an exceptional fantasy novel. I unequivocally love this novel. Bulikov (a city on the Continent) is an amazing place that is still reeling from the loss of its gods. The city is broken and changeable. It's a mere shadow of itself. Bulikov is surreal. Parts of it are missing. There are stairways that lead nowhere and other strange things. The history of the Continent and of the gods is fascinating and engrossing. Bennett has created a wonderful, complex mythology.

The characters, especially Shara Thivani (a Saypuri) and her "secretary" Sigrud (a Dreyling), are superb. Shara is obviously not simply a junior diplomat and Sigurd is not really her secretary. Both are surprising and deeply memorable. Their backstories, which are revealed slowly throughout the novel, are engrossing. They are compelling characters who have a fantastic working relationship and a deep friendship. They are my favorites out of all the characters in the novel. Bennett does not skimp on secondary characters either. I especially like the Governor of Bulikov, Turyin Mulaghesh. Her internal dialogue is often very insightful.

Shara has come to Bulikov to investigate the murder of a professor who was studying the history and artifacts of the gods, which the citizens of Bulikov (and the Continent)  are not allowed to do. It has been forbidden to them for 75 years. The Continental citizens are suffering without their gods. While the murder investigation gets Shara and Sigrud to Bulikov, there is much more going on in the city and Shara has her hands full. Shara suspects that not all the gods are dead because one is not accounted for. There are assassination attempts, monsters, political machinations, and an engaging who-done-it. So while firmly a fantasy novel City of Stairs also reads like a thriller for me. The pacing is terrific. Bennett's writing is outstanding. This is nothing less than I expect from him and he does not disappoint.

Bennett seamlessly deals with issues of cultural and religious suppression (what happens when the oppressed get the upper hand), division among cultures and within cultures and more. You can find a lot to think about in the novel, but if you don't want to think deep thoughts about these issues I can assure you that they are woven deftly into the fabric of the story and do not detract. While the novel is sometimes dark, there is humor as well.

Bottom Line: Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs is a taut fantasy thriller with exceptional characters, superb worldbuilding, and an impressive and thoroughly developed mythology. City of Stairs is the best book I've read this year.

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett from The Qwillery.

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on September 18, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The City Unspoken from The Waking Engine

  2. post magical wave Atlanta from the Kate Daniels series ;) Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would say my favorite mythical city is Arborlon (Terry Brooks's Shannara.)

  4. My favorite mythical city? Not sure what would qualify. I can think of fictional. Will that do? Scott Lynch has a winner in Camorra I think. I look forward to learning about the city of stairs.

  5. Necropolis from Vivi Anna's Nocturne series.

  6. Aw, I wanted to write Anhk Morpork...! :P
    I think Neil Gaiman's underground London from Neverwhere...

  7. i don't have one, but thx u for the chance of win :)

  8. I'm going to have to go with King's Landing from the series A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George RR Martin. Central to so many plots & intrigues.

  9. uh, I can not actually think of names. I like the one from City OF Glass!

  10. Zerzura, the white city of Egypt also known as "The Oasis of Little Birds"