City of Stairs (Divine Cities Series #1)

City of Stairs (Divine Cities Series #1)

by Robert Jackson Bennett


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An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city—from one of America's most acclaimed young science fiction writers.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804137171
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 09/09/2014
Series: Divine Cities Series , #1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 86,342
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?”

Excerpted from "City of Stairs"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Robert Jackson Bennett.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

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City of Stairs 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took quite awhile to click and get into the tale, may be 1/3 for me but I did get hooked end to move on to #2...
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book overall. I decided to read this book because I have seen so many glowing reviews for it. Since everyone seemed to think that this is a great book and I like great books, I grabbed a copy and jumped in. I will say that it took me a while to really get into this book. I think that I just really needed to get a good feel for the world and the characters before everything clicked for me. By the end of the book, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The world that this book was set in was so well done. Bulikov is a city that was once ruled by divine powers until they were all killed. It is now illegal to even talk about these Gods anymore. They are not allowed to study or know their culture's history. The city is ruled by the Saypur and there is a lot of ill feelings towards the ruling class and their rules. Shara was such an interesting character. She is smart and not afraid to take action. She tries to follow the orders of her superiors but will go against them if she believes it is necessary. As much as I liked Shara, I loved Sigrud even more. He was my favorite character in this book. He seemed to do the impossible with ease and it was just a lot of fun to watch. Mulaghesh was great. She was tough and very competent. Mulaghesh and Shara worked well as a team and I really liked how they were able to depend on each other. Vo kept me guessing. I liked him even when I wasn't sure if I should. This book was filled with wonderful characters whose personalities really shined. I would recommend this book to fantasy fans. It is a smartly written story that really keeps you guessing. There was enough action to really keep the story moving. The world building was fantastic and highly imaginative. I plan to continue with this series very soon.
MikeUnderwood More than 1 year ago
I was late to the party, but What. A. Party. Wondrous worldbuilding, nuanced cultures and politics, and sharply-drawn characters all around. Looking back from 2024 or 2030, I think we'll point to City of Stairs as one of the novels that changed the course of how the literature of the fantastic (specifically in the epic fantasy mode) is thought about and the ways it is deployed. Also, SIGRUD. What a character. Viking Giant Ninja Conan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story with a satisfying mix of realism shrouded in fantasy. Characters are well fleshed out and relatable. Plot moves at a good pace with plenty of intrigue and twists.
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Dragondragonfly More than 1 year ago
Excellent! Religious myth mixed with a mystery. Lots of action, good dialogue.
Tomtenor2 More than 1 year ago
Started out slow but got more interesting as it went along. The usual plucky heroine who starts out lost but saves the day in the end with a satisfying flurry of mass destruction and god killing. Her sidekick is the epitome of the omnipotent Viking warrior who is of course really the secret heir to the throne in his country and seemingly indestructible as well, one eye and all. Maybe he's Odin? Good ending and did leave me with a desire to see if our heroine could really do all the things she promised to do plus did she really get a cup of GOOD tea after all?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely one of the best books I've read this year (and I read a lot of books). Bennett creates a rich, detailed world with a long history and a diversity that draws you in right from the beginning. I was hooked from the start and couldn't put it down. Reads like a spy novel but in a fantasy world. Kind of reminiscent of The City and the City by China Mieville.
MaggieJones More than 1 year ago
ity of Stairs is an excellent novel. Robert Jackson Bennett is amazing at world-building, and in City of Stairs he introduces us to Saypur and the Continent and the ruins of the city of the gods, Bulikov. The sad history between the two lands is front and center as we travel through a journey of a Saypuri operative and history loving woman named Shara. Shara is a Saypuri government operative, whose job it is to pacify the Continent after the war of the gods which ended 300 years prior and also ended the enslavement of the Saypuri people. This was an apocalyptic event for the Continent and the freedeom of the Saypuri people all in one. Saypuri steps in to help the ravaged continent and takes over as conquerors. All mentions of the deities is forbidden and the populace in Bulikov is still very traditional and fighting against the “new” regime as well as they can. Shara is looking into the death of a famous historian that she admires greatly, and her investigation leads her to find a plot that can change the face of their world. If you enjoy investigations, riddles and quick and intense world building, this is the novel for you. Robert Jackson Bennett puts the history of the gods first and foremost, and Shara’s obsession with history and the forming of their current world keeps that focus. Luckily there is a string of secondary characters that add life and interest to the story. Without them Shara would be waaaay to focused to enjoyably read. Sigurd, her blood thirsty Greyling secretary is my favorite. General Mulagesh (female, I may add) is also strong, funny and interesting. The love focus in this novel is not really there, there is an old flame that is central to the plot but the sparks are simply not there. My only qualms with this book are the lack of a map and the constant info-dumping. While I feel like this has encyclopedic knowledge of the world, I really can’t understand how it is shaped and a map would have helped a lot. The history and knowledge given in this book is enough to have spread throughout multiple books. The plot didn’t really suffer, however, because a big part of the mystery involves history and how it affects the present. So while it was a bit much, the info dumping wasn’t overwhelming. The other questions it raises are whether gods are really needed, work taking over a life and the subjugation of people. I felt like it tickled parts of my brain that hadn’t been out in awhile.
Thoughts_and_Pens More than 1 year ago
City of Stairs is worthy of a standing ovation! I have to be honest here.  When I signed up for an account on Blogging for Books, my intent was to look for an ARC of a book that I really wanted.  I made a request on EW but sadly, got rejected.  Driven by a sick obsession, I sought Blogging for Books in the hopes that I might find what I’m looking for there. Obviously, my search failed and I end up with City Of Stairs.  Yeah, I know, I could have just walk away without adding another ARC to my staggering TBR pile but I need to try the site and see how it works, build some reviewing cred… yada…yada… There weren’t a lot of choices because some of the titles being offered were horror, zombie stuff and other titles that really didn’t catch my attention.  City of Stairs was the best choice because it belongs to my favorite genre, Fantasy (Although I would learn later that the author does not have a specific genre for City of Stairs. Here’s the post if you’re interested in reading it: The Genre Fountain). Prior to requesting the book, I’ve already read a wonderful review of it a month before (Thankfully, I wasn’t spoiled). That review has made me consider picking up the book but I didn’t anticipate that it would be this soon. Well, what I can say right now is that: Thank heavens for making me pick the e-ARC asap! City of Stairs has just compensated for all the other ARCs (10 of them and still counting) that greatly disappointed me this year.  City of Stairs is utter perfection! I don’t even know where to start or how to write this review without spoiling everyone or bore you with my wax poetic. All I know is that City of Stairs is a mix of everything.  It can be considered as whodunit, mythopoeia, epic fantasy, thriller…you get the idea.  At the wrong hands, City of Stairs would have tremendously flopped considering that there’s an impression that the author was trying to cram a lot of things into the story.  But OMG, City of Stairs was gold! It’s a one stop shop for readers who are into detective stuff, mythology, fantasy, steampunk, and all that jazz. The City Of Stairs started with a curious air as I was immediately thrown into a scene on what is clearly an ongoing case on a courtroom.  Then things got more interesting when the trial was suddenly disturbed by a shocking news. Efrem Pangyui, the famous Saypuri historian, was murdered.  The horrendous event immediately set things in motion.  Our main character, Shara Thivani, who is a close friend of Efrem immediately travelled to the capital city of the Continent, Bulikov.  Pretending to be a lowly Cultural Ambassador, Shara is actually one of the greatest spies of Saypuri, a nation that was once a slave to the Continent. Once Shara and her bodyguard started to unearth the mystery surrounding Efrem’s death, trouble—as big as the gods themselves—instantly ensued. While reading the City of Stairs, I really expected that I will get bored at some point.  I mean, this book is about gods, history of Saypur and the Continent, etc., which for the average reader (like me) are already perfect ingredients for a certified boring book riddled with annoying infodumps. Gladly, Bennett was able to use the said ingredients with great mastery that the book is either or more than perfection. We’ve got characters that are worth rooting for. Pardon if I will get some of their names misspelled as they are really weird. The main character, Shara, is such a brilliant detective.  How do I even describe her deduction skills? Maybe not as awesome as Sherlock Holmes’ but Robert Langdon’s perhaps. I love the way she processes her thoughts. And although she possesses the usual characteristics (no curves, small, bookworm, brilliant, straight A student) of the special snowflakes that littered our YA books today, she’s different in the sense that she doesn’t wallow on inferiority complex bullshit and if she has a task at hand, instead of moaning (i.e. I can’t do this! I am not powerful enough!)  she will see it through with total composure. Absolutely no backing down or even attempts of doing so despite the fact that some of the consequences of her actions were killing her inside. Then of course, would I forget Sigrud, the secretary-cum-muscle of Shara Thivani? Okay, I don’t want to describe how awesome he is and make this review longer than it is but he really made me cry and laugh at the same time. Dear Lord, this is emotional puppetry at its best. The other characters, including the Gods, were memorable as well.  There’s Mulaghesh, Pitry, Votrov…blah blah blah. The world building was mindblowing without the author resorting to infodump.  I find it difficult to describe it because it is clearly a fantasy world infused with contemporary stuff.  There are cameras, cars but you know that it was not this world.  If you have read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials then you’ll understand what I’m trying to say. Everything about the world, the gods, the culture, the religion, the history unraveled in sufficient increments to give the reader enough time to appreciate the whats, wheres, whens, hows, and whys of the story. The plot is also praiseworthy.  All throughout the book, my mind was not only busy deducting who killed Efrem but I was also busy thinking about the mysterious Kaj, how he killed the Gods,  who are these so called Restorationists, are all the gods really dead, etc.  There was never a moment that I got bored with City of Stairs and I would have finished it one sitting if I wasn’t so busy with work and school. I don’t know if this is still worth mentioning but the romance or a hint of it was heartwrenching. I really hoped to the gods that Shara and her romantic interest (despite his true self) would have at least some sort of an HEA. How could you, Bennett? My ship hasn’t even sailed yet but you… you…you… Okay, I need to end this now.  Summing it up, City of Stairs, despite being a standalone and only told in 300+ pages, managed to tell a story with tremendous character development, tightly woven plot, and magnificent world building.  It is a masterpiece worthy of a standing ovation. Bennett has certainly made it on my to-follow-author list!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only made it halve way through i literaly could not care less