City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!


Publication Date: September 9th 2014


Bulikov was once the Seat of the Gods, ruled by the Divinities who made sure that the city and the surrounding country prospered. But the Divinities were killed by the Kaj and Saypur, once a servent-state for the Continent, became the new ruling power. Bulikov is not what it used to be. When young spy and Cultural Ambassador (A)Shara visits the city to try to solve the murder of an old friend, it may just be the beginning of something much bigger then she ever anticipated. And are the Gods really dead, or have they just stopped listening?


In many ways, this was kind of a confusing read for me. It's said to be 'epic fantasy' but it doesn't fit in with what I think of as epic fantasy (this may very well be due to me not knowing too much about it). Also, I was looking forward to this book a long time, just waiting till the moment I could start, and then, when I did, I never really felt like continuing reading, or reading for a long time. This is probably due to the slow start the story had, it took about 200 pages before I was properly hooked and this start to happen.


Before that point, there are mostly a lot of hints dropped about the world, but so few questions are answered. The world itself is a complicated one. The Divinities used to alter science, making sure that normal physical laws don't always apply. When they died, whole parts of buildings/cities disappeared just like that, leaving a city in ruins. People are forbidden to speak about these things, and the rulers would like nothing better than that they were completely forgotten. But they left a lot of mysterious objects, some of which still work. Needless to say, these are considered extremely dangerous.


I've got no evidence to proof it, but right at the beginning I got the feeling that Bulikov and Saypur were shaped somewhat like the Ottoman Empire. I'm not completely sure as to why I think this though. It's set in the 18th century (but it's not made clear where the counts start). Cars have been invented, and quite recently (just five years ago!) photography. However, even though it's a completely new technology, there is already press photography (as in people with portable cameras being able to make pictures really fast), it's of course a fantasy book, so I shouldn't complain about it, but that's a part of the story that overall seemed quite realistic.


Shara is the young, troubled, protagonist, I'm tempted to call her a special snowflake. She surrounded mostly by rather flat characters, and a lot of greed and political intrigue. The Divinities provide the fantasy element, but mostly this is a political thriller/detective. That's why I didn't really understand why they called it epic fantasy. Overall, it's not a bad book, but my expectations were too high, as for me this was not a very special book, even though the world has some fascinating aspects...


There now is a final cover: