Review Friday: City of Stairs

Good morning, on a tired, cold Friday. I nearly forgot about this, but glad I remembered!

Today I will be reviewing the book:

City of Stairs

City of Stairs is the first book in the soon to be completed Divine Cities trilogy by Jackson Bennett (with the last novel out this month).

The story is about a young diplomat Shara, who comes to the broken and despondent city of Bulikov in order to solve a murder. Her investigations lead her to face the terrifying truth that the God that once ruled might not be as dead as history has lead everyone to believe.

Overall, I immensely liked the novel, and can’t wait to read the sequel, City of Blades. 

The book has a host of interesting characters, but I think my favorite was Shara’s bodyguard, who’s known as her ‘secretary’. He’s bulky, stoic, and takes joy in bloodying up enemies. He’s great.

Shara, the main character, was likable enough, and more importantly, interesting. But she falls under the good old typical trope: skinny, underestimated and jaded. Boy, I’ve never read a book with that kind of main heroine.

Honestly what really shines about this book is the world building, and the mythos it creates. Upon reading it and having a think back over, it’s not all that revolutionary. Yet I haven’t come across another fantasy novel that has done what this story does, and the ones that have touched on the ideas haven’t done it as well as City of Stairs does. Without giving too much away, it’s reminiscent of the Greek gods, and the ideas behind how they could have ruled, but it has its own unique, fascinating and unpleasant history.

The biggest problem I would say the book has it that I wasn’t sucked in. It took me almost half the book to really get into and become fascinated with the ideas it was presenting. Once I did, I couldn’t put the book down, but I wished it hadn’t taken me so long to get into the story.

There’s a character in the novel who’s supposed to be gay, having come from a culture where that’s highly taboo, yet they still have him sleep with women, but the implication is always that he wants to be with men. I’m all for trying to represent a broad spectrum of sexuality, but to me what was trying to get across was muddled. I’d be curious to hear other readers’ opinions.

I thought the build up, character development, and world building in the last 1/3 of the novel was excellent, and it’s left with me with an insatiable desire to find the next book as soon as possible and find out what’s happening with Shara.

If you want a book that:

  • Has a female lead who isn’t a teenager
  • Creates its own complex mythos and world
  • Has a variety of compelling characters
  • Evokes fantasy in a middle eastern setting
  • Presents thoughts on gods and religion that leave questions lingering in your head far beyond just the story the book is telling

Then I recommend City of Stairs

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Review Friday. If you have a specific movie or book you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email. 



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