I’m not sure why this book was on my Kindle. Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps my Kindle decided it was bored of my Jane Austen kick. Whatever the reason, I bought City of Stairs at some point and then began reading it on the bus to work.
It would have been easy to miss my stop that day and every other day I’ve read this book. I would refer to it as a true page-turner if I was not reading it on a screen. With a grand host of intricate and interesting characters in an intricate and interesting world, there is so much to this book I don’t know where to start.
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.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite I don’t know what will.
One of the best things about this book is that it defies traditional genre tropes. It is high fantasy but it is not elves and swords and thinly-veiled metaphors for Medieval European politics. It has an element of romance but it is far from the point and neither character is suited for the situation in any case. It is a book of spies and intrigue without the predictability. It has kings and Gods and terrifying sea creatures.
None of that is what I liked best about this book. The best part for me was the relatability of the characters. They are not tired old copies of characters before them. They are bright and intriguing people with flaws as high as the sky and from the first page I couldn’t get enough of them.
I gave a physical copy of this book to my girlfriend for Christmas because I know she’ll love it as much as I do. I’m fairly sure most of you will too if you give it a try.