Book Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Title: City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1)

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction

Publisher: Broadway Books

Published: September 9, 2014

Page Amount: 452 pages

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.

Why Read: Talk about a random pick up in a bookstore. This wasn’t on my TBR and I certainly wasn’t expecting to invest another book in science fiction/fantasy… but I absolutely was swept away by this book.

Review: Okay, so you know that feeling you get when you don’t expect to like something and the second you open the book – it’s like the author has somehow kidnapped your spirit and taken to someplace fantastical? It’s not precisely common, but when it happens – you remember. City of Stairs did that for me. The whole idea of two differing civilisations that undergone periods of being the coloniser and the colonised was immensely fascinating, and add in the idea of actual gods, or rather “Divinities” as the book calls them, and I stood no chance whatsoever. The main character is a spy, and has come to the colonised city to investigate the death of a student of hers.

Thing aren’t as they seem. That might be the theme of most books, but it’s absolutely the focus of this one. Shara, the main protagonist, could be reasonably thought of as arrogant… not in a bad way, but in the way that she knows that she is good at what she does and isn’t interested in hiding her abilities. It is refreshing to have a female character that has competencies, and a love life, and is the logical one within it. Without spoiling too much, let it be known that Shara is the ice queen of this book, but with other things – she’s the most romantic of all characters. Romance in the manner of learning, of discovering thing about the past – and what other subject is so pleasant to read about than the passion of someone else?

Sigrid deserves his own book honestly but he’s hilarious and I found myself looking for reasons to think of him. He has a… unique manner. Beyond him, the plot itself is intensely interesting and is broken up by historical background of the two communities that begins to bring things further into perspective. I am still feeling a bit of book hangover in case you can’t tell, and it’s been about a week. That’s saying something, considering that I’m back deep into fan fiction land at the moment (Avengers x Harry Potter crossover is everything).

If you’re wondering what’s a good foray into science fiction as a history buff? Look no further.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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