I saw this book as I was perusing my Amazon recommendations. Its description captured my interest, but I didn’t buy it for sometime. Actually, it wasn’t until I was on a date with my wife that I decided I was going to read it. But before anyone concludes that I’m a horrible husband (Shopping for himself on a date? What kind of man is this?) let me explain. We had been talking about something, which I can no longer remember, and I pulled it up on my phone to read her the description. Below the description was an excerpt from the book and by the time I got to the end of the teaser I was intrigued. Several days later I bought the book and began to read.
The city of Bulikov was once the most powerful city in the world. Strengthened by the power of their gods, they conquered and oppressed all those that stood before them. But now their gods have been killed, their history has been censured, and they are now the oppressed. Their ruined city serves as a reminder of their former glory, but not all is as it seems.
After the death of a renowned scholar of Bulikov’s oppressors, Shara Thiavani enters the city. Though she plays the role of a junior diplomat, she is one of her nations most successful spies and the scholar’s mysterious death soon becomes her mission; a mission that will prove more dangerous than she could have ever imagined and will lead her to discover a horrible truth: the Gods of Bulikov may not be as dead as everyone thinks.
So let’s get the parental guide out of the way: if you are not comfortable with that have some mature content including vulgar language, some intense violence, and references to a homosexual relationship, then this book is not for you. The content is mildly gratuitous; however, Robert Jackson Bennett used the content to advance the plot and improve the character development. I don’t think some of the content he used was necessary; regardless, I think the premise, the style, and the structure were excellent and more than make up for any fault on the author’s part.
When I read a book I like to look at how the author tells their story. Which perspective does he or she use? In many popular young adult novels, the story is told from first person perspective to allow the audience to more closely feel like they are living the story. It’s a perfectly fine perspective that has many benefits, but third person limited provides a wonderful seat for the reader to serve as the observer: analyzing the events and participating in a passive way. This also allows for smoother character transitions, especially those that happen mid chapter. Bennett took advantage of this stylistic perspective to relate events that would otherwise have been unavailable to the main characters.
After reading this book I was surprised that it wasn’t more successful. I had the same feelings about The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. The story is creative, intriguing, and so very different from the other books that have been coming out. In my opinion, they are a great deal better than said books. So if you’re a fantasy reader or interested in possibly becoming a fantasy reader, City of Stairs is a good book with which to invest your time.