Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: City of Stairs

City of Stairs
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Mystery/fantasy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Folks who like to think deep thoughts, enjoy a good story
Book Available: September 9, 2014 in paperback and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: murder, slavery (historically), religious persecution

My Thoughts: I really enjoy cross-genre stories, and this one hits a few of my favorite buttons: a mystery in a fantasy world. To make things even better, it is a multi-layered story that brings up issues of slavery, personal and religious freedom, and the abuse of power. It was a really excellent story. This little segment, which is before the first page of the first chapter, really encapsulates some of the ideas that are explored in the story, and also express my thoughts on organized religion pretty well.
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?

And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”

And Olvos was silent.
I was very amused by the anti-bureaucracy sentiments expressed in the book, too, as shown in these segments:
There is no crueler hells then committee work.

Shara now sits on committees that decide who shall be nominated to be committee chairs for other committees, then, after these meetings, she sits on committee meetings to formulate agendas for future meetings, and after them, she attends committee meetings deciding who shall be appointed to appoint appointments to committees.

These meetings, they're like thieves—they follow you around, wait until you're not looking, and pounce.
I really liked the characters, and the development of those characters. The changes are slow and subtle, just like in life, but end up being life-altering in the end. It was very well done. I was left with a lot of lingering thoughts about power and powerlessness and how those who initially lacked power will often abuse it once they have it. The Saypuri were treated as slaves under the control of the Continentals, and when they finally rose up and overthrew them, the Saypuri persecuted the Continentals, refusing to allow them to so much as mention their gods (or Divinities), forbidding “miracles” (essentially magic spells), and denying the Continentals their own history or access to their own texts from the past. One would think that it would be common sense to not do something like that, as it just leads to more conflict, but then again, the lust for power rarely bows to common sense or logic.

So, a really good book. It made me think and ponder on various topics, many of them quite weighty, while at the same time providing an entertaining story. I recommend this to anyone who likes deep thoughts, a good story, and a cross-genre tale. This book won't be available until September, but you can pre-order it if it sounds like your thing.

Disclosure: I received an ARC/proof copy from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Divani. Officially, the quiet, mousy woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters—dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem—and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

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  1. I sit here on my own review of this wonderful book and wait patiently. ALways thinking, now is the time. Alas all I can do is scream at people about just how good City of Stairs is and fight the urge to read it again even thought it has only been two months.

    1. :-) I had to review it when I did because it is for Amazon Vine and one needs to review the book within a month of receipt. Glad to hear my thoughts on this book match your own!


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