City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett

I'd seen City of Stairs recommended in various places and was delighted to discover that my local library system had ordered a copy - I've been trying to use it more recently, particularly as I can order books for the princely sum of 45p and collect them from the branch which is a 5-minute walk from my house.

 

Anyway, back to the book - the world in which City of Stairs is set is one where a significant part of the world (the Continent) was once ruled by six Divinities and miracles were commonplace. Subsequently, the smaller country of Saypur had been over-run, seen as inferior because it had no Divinity of its own, and exploited in a variety of ways. All of this had come to a shocking halt a couple of generations before City of Stairs is set, as one Saypuri had discovered that the Divinities could be killed and had led a successful revolution, overthrowing the Continent's domination and effectively replacing it with his own.

 

On the Continent now, it's illegal to even speak of the Divinities and all knowledge of them has been shut away, accessible only to those authorised by Saypur, the latest of whom has been brutally murdered in Bulikov, the Continent's capital city. Cue the entrance of our protagonist, an agent for the Saypuri government who also happens to be the great-granddaughter of the man responsible for the current situation. As for the eponymous stairs of the book's title, she (Shara) is trying to find a murderer in a city which was massively affected by the death of the Divinities, causing parts of the city to disappear and leaving stairs and alleys that lead to nowhere.

 

Clearly a huge amount of thought has gone into the world-building for City of Stairs and it shows. If it hadn't been for a couple of things, it probably would have got a 5-star rating from me, as it's definitely worth reading: firstly, the heavy-handed foreshadowing (seriously, there are at least half a dozen places where I could see what was going to happen because of the way something was commented on or mentioned) and secondly, the bad thing that happens to one of the major characters. Of course, the fact I care enough about that character's fate to be annoyed, alongside that it's a  trope I'm particularly unfond of, is probably a sign of the overall quality of the book. So, despite this, I recommend it to anyone who likes well-written fantasy and am looking forward to the follow-up (City of Blades) which is due out early next year.