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City of Stairs Paperback – September 9, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A memorably surreal urbanscape...readers seeking a truly refreshing fantasy milieu should travel to Bulikov, and welcome its conquest.”
--New York Times Book Review

"A delightful urban fantasy that travels through a city full of Escher-like staircases and alternate realities...A diverse and entertaining cast of old gods fleshes out the ruins of this mysterious city, and Shara’s hit-man secretary delivers nonstop action."
--Washington Post

"Entertaining yet thought-provoking...Entrancing characters, exciting descriptions and piercingly clear action keep the story moving swiftly and surely to a satisfying conclusion.”
--Seattle Times

[An] incredible journey through a wondrously weird and surprising world...I found myself both delighted and fascinated as every layer was slowly unpacked. Just the right mix of awesome."
--Tor.com

“Suddenly, the pages are whipping by, 50 at a clip as mysteries are uncovered, miracles happen and assassins begin scaling the walls. … Bennett is plainly a writer in love with the world he has built — and with good cause. It's a great world, original and unique, with a scent and a texture, a sense of deep, bloody history, and a naturally-blended magic living in the stones.” 
--NPR.org

"Robert Jackson Bennett deserves a huge audience. This is the book that will earn it for him. A story that draws you in, brilliant world building, and oh my God, Sigrud. You guys are going to love Sigrud." 
--Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Way of Shadows

"Smart and sardonic, with wry echoes from classic tales mixed up in an inventive, winning narrative. [Bennett is] a master of the genre."
--Kirkus

"An excellent spy story wrapped in a vivid imaginary world."
--Library Journal (starred)

A rich, layered, thoughtful story, full of gods and magic and characters that feel unflinchingly true…every once in a while I read a book that’s so well done, I find myself wanting to punch the author in the face out of pure envy. Congratulations, Mr. Bennett – you just made the face-punching list! 
--Jim C. Hines, Hugo Award winning author of Libriomancer

"Alien and human at the same time, Bennett's world is engrossing and fascinating. The pacing kept me reading far later than was healthy."
--Mur Lafferty, Campbell Award winning author of Playing for Keeps

About the Author

ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT is the author of American Elsewhere, The Troupe, The Company Man, and Mr. Shivers. His books have been awarded the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson, and the Philip K. Dick Citation of Excellence. He lives in Austin with his wife and son.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (September 9, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080413717X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804137171
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 13, 2014
Format: Paperback
I always look forward to reading a Robert Jackson Bennett novel. City of Stairs has all the hallmarks of Bennett's work, including a fiercely imagined world, offbeat humor, a thoroughly enjoyable story, and characters who, despite being from a different world or universe, illuminate what means to be human.

As a background to the complex plot, Bennett has invented a mythology. In the world Bennett creates, gods (recast as Divinities) once existed; the miracles attributed to them actually occurred. Prior to the Great War, Bulikov was a city of miracles, protected by the Divinities who occupied the Continent. Saypur was a Continental colony across the sea until a Saypuri named Kaj killed the six Divinities ... or so history records. After that, the miracles were locked away and forgotten.

Seventy-five years after Great War, Saypur rules the Continent. The people who inhabit Bulikov hate their occupiers, in part because the Saypuri have outlawed their divine symbols and all works that mention or acknowledge their Divinities.

The novel begins with the murder of Efram Pangyui, a Saypuri who was studying the Divinities and trying to learn how Kaj managed to kill them. Saypur sends Pangyui's mentor, a woman named Shara, to investigate. Shara, who does not want the Continentals to know that she is the great-granddaughter of Kaj, pursues mysteries and conspiracies that go much deeper than Pangyui's murder. Her investigation is impeded both by an uncooperative superior in Saypur and by Continentals who miraculously vanish on Bulikov's streets.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Monica Mileti on September 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Robert Jackson Bennett has been an award winning speculative fiction author since his debut in 2010. However, his newest novel, City of Stairs, is sure to elevate Bennett from an acclaimed author to a genre legend. There are so many wonderful aspects of this novel that it is difficult to know where to begin. City of Stairs is an incredibly well written and intelligent novel, it is engrossing, stunningly original, and the character development is truly remarkable. Though the first half of the novel is slower paced and full of intricate world building, it is still engaging. By the time the reader gets to the second half of the book, it becomes obvious that City of Stairs is a perfect example of a speculative fiction novel with the whole package: amazing world building, great writing, wonderful characters, and an exciting plot line with shocking twists. After reading this novel I am a bigger fan of Bennett’s work than ever before, and I would definitely place him within my top ten favorite speculative fiction authors.

City of Stairs is set in the city of Bulikov, which was once a cultural hub for a continent that was backed by the powers of the Gods, and that used this power to conquer the world. But when a mysterious weapon killed Bulikov’s divine protectors, the conquerors suddenly became the conquered, and much of their history, the architecture of the city, and culture disappeared in the blink of an eye. The continental’s former slaves have now become the world’s new geopolitical power, and they repress what history is left to the people of Bulikov in order to ensure that its citizens will stay subjugated and never return to their former glory.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Although definitely steeped in elements of epic fantasy, and wholly dependent upon a complex mythology, City of Stairs is really an urban fantasy, one set in alternate universe that's on the cusp of an industrial revolution. Robert Jackson Bennett actually dabbles in a lot of different genres here, including those of mystery and the political thriller, but he successfully ties it all together in a surprisingly cohesive whole.

The story opens rather simply, with Shara Thivani arriving in Bulikov to investigate the death of Efrem Pangyui, a renowned Saypuri historian. There's a lot more going on here than just a simple murder, however, and it's all tied to a history of conquest, occupation, and the wholesale destruction of an entire culture. It's a conquest that extends so far as to have murdered the gods that once watched over the land of Bulikov, and to have reshaped the entire landscape through the chaos of the Blink - a catastrophic, anti-miraculous sort of event that coincided with the death of gods and the destruction of their works.

Set against that wondrously complex backdrop, we have a woman who is far more than who she initially appears. Shara is a spy, a young woman banished from home due to her overzealous nature, and who has a past romantic connection to an influential figure in the burgeoning rebellion. As we later discover, however, she actually has an even deeper, even older connection to Bulikov, with a heritage that has the potential to mark her as the darkest of villains should it be revealed. At her side is Sigrud, the strange, largely silent giant from the North who accompanies everywhere.
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