At first look, City of Stairs did not appeal to me. I decided to read it based on a review on npr.org. It was the headline of the review that caught my interest and City of Stairs may be the best book I’ve read this year.
Robert Bennett Jackson’s city is cold, dark and grey. He does a wonderful job of conveying the nature of Bulikov (the city of stairs) to the reader through his writing. Only when Shara, the Saypuri spy, meets an Olvostani monk did I realize the genius of Jackson’s use of language (or the absence of it) to convey the bleakness of Bulikov.
Bulikov, center of Continental government, was once the most prosperous and powerful city in Bennett’s imagined world. The Continent ruled the world and Bulikov was the seat of the gods who ruled the Continent — until Saypur, a neighboring nation, figured out a way to do the impossible. The Saypuris discovered a weapon that could kill gods and they did just that. Bulikov was reduced to a city subjected to new rulers and new rulers have to make sure that the new ways they introduce are followed. No mention of the former divinities was allowed and to require abandonment of your new citizen’s faith is to ask for trouble.
Fantasy is not a genre I read often and don’t always like. City of Stairs ranks with Justin Cronin’s The Passage in terms of fantasy literature however. It is a must read in my book and as the book jacket says — just wait till you meet Sigrud.
Book Details: Published by Broadway Books (September 9, 2014), 448 pages, ISBN: 978-0804137171.