My Fantasy December plans have started off with a bang as I finished the first book off my December TBR list today. It also means that I completed my GoodReads Challenge to read 60 books in 2014. Yay me!
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett is a fantasy novel that centers around Shara Komayd, a intelligence officer whom comes to the Continental city of Bulikov to investigate the murder of her friend Professor Efrem Pangyui. Bulikov was once the city of the gods and divine miracles until Shara's great-grandfather The Kaj killed them all and the Saypuri nation gained control over the Continent. Traveling with her giant Dreyling "secretary"Sigrund, Shara attempts to solve the Professor's murder, but the two also discover a lot of hidden truths about what really happened to the Divine.
So I have never read anything by Bennett before, but I found this fantasy novel to be equal parts traditional fantasy, geopolitical power struggle and a murder mystery. Read It Forward even hailed it as Sci-Fi for people that don't read Sci-Fi. While this book didn't totally blow me away, I thought it was really good and had some really interesting philosophical elements to it. Firstly the concept of what the Gods were and how they came to be was super interesting. I like that you don't really get the answer that you are looking for in the end. I also liked that Bennett leaves you with an open ending. Not everything is going to be resolved but Shara is on her way to put balance back into the world.
One of the things that I really liked about the novel was the inclusion of diversity. Firstly Shara is definitely not white, she is described initially as dark skinned and then in later parts as brown, and I really liked reading about this strong woman of color who was in power, but also had her own vulnerabilities. I think Bennett did a good job of making her a well rounded and interesting woman. I also thought it was interesting what he did with Shara's former lover Vo. It is not clear if Vo was gay, or bi or even pan, but I really liked that his ambitious sexuality was not a major plot point to this novel.
I did really like this novel and I thought Bennett did a great job of his world-building. So much that an artist actually made an interactive map of the city of Bulikov. You should definitely check it out in addition to reading this novel. I'm giving this one a 7.5 out of 10.
Have you read City of Stairs? What did you think?
*I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review. For more information on this book click here.