Review: City of Stairs

Series: The Divine Cities: #1

The city knows. It remembers. Its past is written in its bones, though the past now speaks in silences.

The City of Stairs is a wonderful book. The start is remarkably dense, dropping you into the deep end of a complicated world with flavors I at least wasn’t as familiar with where Proper Nouns abound and the rules are uncertain–even to those living therein.

The worldbuilding and descriptions and writing style are fantastic.

Yet now Ashara—or just Shara, usually—finally sees. The stairs lead everywhere, nowhere: there are huge mountains of stairs, suddenly rising out of the curb to slash up the hillsides; then there will be sets of uneven stairs that wind down the slope like trickling creeks; and sometimes the stairs materialize before you like falls on whitewater rapids, and you see a huge vista crack open mere yards ahead.… The name must be a new one. This could have only happened after the War. When everything … broke. So this is what the Blink looks like, she thinks. Or, rather, this is what it did.…

The City of Stairs. A War. The Blink. Dead gods. So many things that make you want to learn more and such a beautiful, eerie way of describing a broken world.

However, just because something is impossible does not mean that the people of Saypur should not expect it to be done: after all, before the War, didn’t impossible things happen on the Continent every hour of every day? Is that not why Saypur, and indeed, the rest of the world, sleeps so poorly every night?

One thing that at once amused me and pulled me out of my immersion in the book is the swearing. There are a number of ‘shits’ and ‘fucks’ throughout, used in a purely modern feel. They fit but they don’t and it’s jarring when normally I expect worlds to have developed their own ways of cursing.

“That biography of Thinadeshi is shit, just so you know,” she said.

“Is it?”

“Yes. The writer has an agenda. And his references are suspect.”

“Ah. His references. Very important.”

“Yes.” He flipped a page. “Incidentally,” he asked, “did you ever give much thought to the thing I said about fucking?”

“Shut up.” He smiled.

Right. Probably not the best book for young readers.

I love the characters. Especially Shara, she’s a tea drinking secret agent(ish) with an interest in history and magic. She’s in way over her head, but will that stop her? No. She’s going to meet the world head on, drink some tea, and do what needs to be done.

A corrupt politician, thinks Shara. What a wildly unconventional idea. After all, one can’t mount the last few steps on the ladder without a lot of nasty compromises.

Also: Sigrud.

“Those damages were done, after all, by a Ministry employee.”

That man works for the Ministry? For you? But he’s a Dreyling , isn’t he? Haven’t they all become savages and pirates since their little kingdom collapsed?

“Maybe so,” says Shara, “but he saved your life.”

Badass noble savage heir to a kingdom, fiercely devoted bodyguard, and all around mover and shaker. I sorely hope to see more of him in the sequels. Also, his people are the Dreylings. This amuses me greatly (and you’ll either know me well enough to know why or you won’t).

Overall: highly recommend. Make it past the crazy dense intro and you’re in for quite a ride.