Book - City of Stairs

City of Stairs cover
Romeo Kennedy embarks on a flight of stairs...er.... fantasy with City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett...

I have to admit I really didn't know what to expect from this book. Its plot focuses on a lot of themes that are neatly interwoven and have some really mind blowing consequences.

I have never read anything else by Mr Bennet although, after reading this, I'm really wanting to read American Elsewhere.

But I digress.

City Of Stairs focuses on the city of Bulikov (The City of Stairs) which is situated in the Continent. It used to be a great power in the world and ruled over Saypur, that was until the ‘Night of The Red Sands ‘when the Kaj ( a military leader) killed one of the continent’s six Divine Gods, thus putting Saypur in the overall position of power and ruling over the continent and Bulikov with an iron fist. Fast forward to 1719 and the murder of Efrem Pangyui. Ashara Thivani is sent as a diplomat by the Saypur ministry to investigate the mysterious death of her mentor and friend, with her secretary Sigrud, a Dreyling, who, let's just say, can certainly handle himself when push comes to shove. And I really don't mean with pen and paper. Through her investigation of Pangyui’s death, the City of Stairs holds many secrets, and not just to its own people.

If anyone were to ask me “Can you a suggest a good book that has fantastic world building?” I would hand them a copy of this. As Robert Jackson Bennet has painstakingly built something rather special here. The world that surrounds Shara’s investigation has something of a European feel to it, I think, both in name and some of the ways that Bennet describes the architecture of Bulikov. To me, Bulikov is a character in this novel and its own search for its identity is quite poignant. Within this world, magic, technology and political machinations are all at play, the former being very forbidden in the city but these hidden things always have a way to burst through. As for the political goings on, in parts it reminded me of the perpetual troubles in Israel and Palestine, and that, to me, didn't come across in a high handed way.

The pacing throughout is magnificent, as there is so much going on, and it really is beautifully written. The fight scenes are not done in a gratuitous way but in order to move the story forward at the lovely pace. I got half way and said to my wife, “I really don't want to finish this book … but I must find out what happens!”

This really is an exciting novel where anything is possible, and I really do mean anything. At points I came up with my own conclusions as to what some of its points actually meant, only to discover that I really was barking up the wrong stair. I say this for many books that I review, but I really and especially do not want to spoil some of its twists and reveals, needless to say that Robert Jackson Bennett has created something that really works splendidly when all added together.

Sigrud, you are an absolute gem of a character.

(Also, I came across this earlier which I thought was beautiful and for me affirms as to what Bennett’s world looks like in my mind)

City of Stairs is available now from Jo Fletcher books (Quercus) so forget my ramblings and go grab yourself a copy.

The author is also on twitter @robertjbennett and to find out more about the author check out his site

Image - Amazon

Review first published on Romeo's own blog