Review: City of Stairs


20174424Title: City of Stairs
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary: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.

The world of City of Stairs has a pretty cool premise: A nation enslaved by another revolts, kills the Gods of their rulers, and then takes power for itself...but there's more to the story and we are just on the verge of discovering what really happened. I loved that the nations weren't based on medieval western Europe; the main characters come from countries based on south Asia, Russia, and Scandinavia (as far as I could tell, anyways). I also thought it was very cool how the cultures of both countries were well-developed and influenced how the characters from different places viewed the world so differently. The world-building in this book is top notch.

That said, I didn't love this book because it just felt very slow and plodding. I was bored throughout the middle. It just felt like the book was longer than it needed to be. There were political machinations and progress made on the murder mystery throughout the book, but what I really wanted to know was what happened in the cataclysm so long ago and what the ramifications were for "now". I got the answers I wanted eventually, complete with epic battle sequences, but it just took so long to get there that I nearly didn't finish.

I did enjoy this book, but I probably will not be continuing with the series.

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