City of Stairs by Robert Jackson BennettCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Narrator: Alma Cuervo
Series: The Divine Cities #1
Published by Recorded Books on September 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Length: 17 hrs 49 mins
Format: Audiobook
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The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy. Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani.

Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.

The world in City of Stairs is awesome! Deities used to be involved in a close, daily basis with their followers, building and changing the world, allowing one country to rule. The gods have been killed or have disappeared, their people now at the mercy of others, the city itself transformed, the weather changing. It is not surprising that there are some in Bulikov who are not happy living under the thumb of their conquerors, some who are wiling to do whatever they can to make Bulikov thrive again.

Into this arena arrives Shara, a woman whose job as an intelligence agent is to maintain the status quo but whose interests lie in the past, in the history of the gods and the miracles they allowed. She has chosen this assignment to investigate the murder of a man she truly admired, but when we’re talking about governments and politics and gods, dead or not, it gets complicated. Shara begins to suspect that those closest to her are perhaps not who they appear.

I like the intrigue, and while I question some of Shara’s choices they do help shape her as a character. She’s strong and confident, but not always. Now her sidekick, Sigrud, rocks. That’s all I can say really. He’s incredibly tough and brave (or doesn’t care if he dies) but we learn more about him, or he becomes more, as the story progresses. They work together well, fill in each other’s weaknesses. Maybe he’s a bit too good at what he does, but I don’t care, I’d definitely want him on my side in a fight. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the future.

City of Stairs had the potential to be fabulous, but it didn’t quite make it there for me. I can’t really even put my finger on why. Fabulous world. great, full characters, a couple of awesome action scenes. I was listening to this on audio and at one point had to jump on-line to search for spoilers – I was worried Sigrud had bit off more that he could chew. That’s the problem with audios – you can just skip to the end to see what happens. Very stressful. So I cared about the characters, but maybe I didn’t care about the plot’s outcome. It was good, but the next in the series might just hit amazing.

About Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert is the author of American Elsewhere, The Troupe, The Company Man, Mr. Shivers, as well as The Divine Cities trilogy and The Founders Trilogy. The final installment of The Founders Trilogy, LOCKLANDS, is in stores June of 2022.

His work has received the Edgar Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Phillip K. Dick Citation of Excellence, and he has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Locus Awards.

He lives in Austin with his wife and two sons.


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