City of Stairs

City of Stairs

A Novel

Book - 2014
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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."-- From back cover.
Publisher: New York :, Broadway Books,, [2014]
Edition: First Edition
Copyright Date: ℗♭2014
ISBN: 9780804137171
Branch Call Number: F BEN NVD
Characteristics: 452 pages ; 21 cm


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Mar 07, 2019

This book defies existing genre labels and therefore has been shelved in that great catch-all, science fiction/ fantasy. It's a grand adventure, a spy thriller, and a multi-cultural and philosophical exploration of war and governance through the eyes of a number of very different individuals, including the indomitable Sigrud mentioned in other reviews. Something for everyone, but a veritable feast for the serious reader.

Aug 28, 2018

Couldn't get into. A lot of names and a lot of superfluous details.

May 06, 2016


1/12 - Am I dreadfully disturbed because I found Sigrud's destruction of Cheyschek and his fellow terrorists (or whatever they are) absurdly funny? Especially the part where Sigrud avoids being smooshed against the side of a building by a moving vehicle, but one unconscious passenger isn't so lucky and gets his head knocked right off?

"...not as painful as what happens to the unconscious man dangling out of the broken window of the car: there is a wet smack and something goes tumbling across the stony streets."

Is my mind irreversibly damaged by watching Die Hard and Terminator 2 when I was 12, or do other people find that image of the "wet smack" LOL hilarious? I also loved it when Sigrud behaved like a child deprived of his favourite toy when Shara told him he couldn't kill the last 'terrorist' because they needed at least one left alive for questioning. I wouldn't worry Sigrud, Shara'll probably let you be head torturer during the interrogation.

Brent Weeks, author of the Lightbringer trilogy is quoted on the front cover as saying "...and oh my God, Sigrud. You guys are going to love Sigrud..." and he was spot on. I do love Sigrud, he reminds me of John Reese in Person of Interest (new season starts tonight *happy dance*), with less talking and more gore (John's managed to go a whole four years without having to rip anyone's throat out with his teeth - more hilarity from Sigrud). To be continued...

4/12 - Stridulously, now that's a word I've never heard. According to various online dictionaries it is defined as 'making a harsh, shrill, or grating noise', which I suppose I can imagine the squid/prawn/jellyfish sea monster thing making.

Did anyone else get an inkling that there might be an evil twin/dead brother who's not dead after all thing going on with Vohannes? I've just passed Sigrud's fight with the sea monster, Shara's subsequent 'experience' with Vo in her bed and her reveal as the Kaj's descendant. During the fight with the sea monster Shara sees 'Vo' watching them and frowning and wearing a brown shirt and pants, then when she later asks 'Vo' (not sure which is the 'real' Vo) why he changed clothes he tells her he's been wearing the white fur coat all day. Also he seemed surprisingly unbothered by his bad hip while he was rolling around in bed with Shara. So, maybe it wasn't Vo (the one Shara knew back at university) who outed her to the media, but his long-lost but not dead older brother who looks strangely like Vo and has some kind of evil agenda that involves the Divinities and their pets, which Shara and Sigrud are getting in the way of. To be continued...

5/12 - Ah ha! Told ya, told ya, told ya!! The evil twin/dead brother who's not really dead after all ploy gets them every time, but not me I'm too suspicious for that (in fact I'm likely to assume there's a plot even when there isn't). And not bringing anyone along with her to meet 'Vo' out of sympathy or misguided loyalty? That's a rookie mistake that no spy-type like what Shara is supposed to be should fall for. Now Mulaghesh is going to storm 'Vo's' castle and he'll either be dead - replaced by 'evil not-dead brother' - or have no idea about any of it or where Shara might be (and therefore extending the length of time Shara is held hostage, and possibly tortured, by evil 'Vo'). To be continued...

7/12 - At the heart of the story, this is almost a murder mystery/detective story just set in a strange and fantastic world full of magic and corrupt governmental types. I really wish this wasn't a standalone. I want to read more about Shara and Sigrud. I think there could be a sequel showing Shara going into the upper echelons of the Saypuri government and cleaning it up. Maybe...? I would really enjoy reading that.

JCLGreggW Jan 22, 2016

Some books can be described in just a few words, while others are nearly impossible to pin down even while they’re nearly impossible to put down. This fantasy novel - that feels much more like a historical thriller - centers around a spy who investigates the murder of a prominent scholar, and discovers an elaborate conspiracy involving lost gods, magical artifacts, and international intrigue, accompanied by a sullen, burly Nordic bodyguard of few words and an old flame who might be involved in a political revolution. There’s a LOT going on here, but Bennett keeps every plotline humming in a fabulously written novel that’s well worth discovering.

Apr 01, 2015

Some very unique and interesting world building, a great mystery and a super smart heroine make this a great new fantasy book.

forbesrachel Oct 30, 2014

Original and exceptional! The people of the Continent were defeated. Their gods killed. Now their beliefs are denied. Even after numerous years the citizenry has nothing but distaste for the Saypuris who suppress them. When Dr. Efrem Pangyui is murdered, Shara makes her way to Bulikov, the City of Stairs, to find out why. What should have been a simple case, reveals so much more though. Shara must play the political game, collect intelligence, and sift through history to stop an unforeseen threat. She, and other fascinating characters like Sigrud, the deadly, pragmatic, giant of a guardian, are full of motives and emotions that fuel their actions. Bulikov is as much a character as they are. It is a remnant of the miraculous city it once was, and at every turn we are reminded of this through a tone that ranges from bleak to wondrous. The past has left an indelible mark on both it and Saypur, and on a smaller, more personal level, on each individual. This thoroughly built past creates the foundations needed to make realistic cultures, beliefs, and political relations. Better yet, we only come to understand the extent of its impact as the layers get revealed. The past is never just the past. Its consequences are always present, and most importantly, it is our identity; our whole world balances on what we "know". Too bad what we know is not always what is true.

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