City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Makes my list of favourite fantasy novels.
City of Stairs book cover

Book of the Year 2014 (see all)

Shara and her assistant Sigurd have arrived in the Continental city of Belikov in search of Dr. Efrem Pangyui's killers, but are about to discover so much more. Belikov is a city of twisted realities and things are definitely not what they seem. Shara and her associates must find the killers and stop their extremist plot before it is too late.

City of Stairs had a very slow start, and it took a while for me to become enveloped in the story. Bennett's writing style caught me off-guard but in a way I feel that this unique narration added to the story, as the city of Belikov is just as disconcerting. The writing and the setting are unsettling at first, but I soon became accustomed to what was previously so alien.

Shara is not a typical fantasy heroine – she is not particularly comely, and while she is a leading member of her field, she is not exactly celebrated for it and at one point, her aunt (and her boss) corrects her by saying that Shara is the agent most obsessed with the Divinities and the Continent as opposed to the leading expert.

The world-building that went into this book was amazing. It was more of a bottom-top approach but there was still a sufficient amount of background information. I found the way that Bennett approached religion to be extremely interesting and I loved the way that the reader was kept in the dark about the history of Belikov and the Divinities - just as the people of the Continent were.

City of Stairs definitely makes my list of favourite fantasy novels, and I would definitely read a sequel, as well as more of Bennett's work. Excellent and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

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