‘Like looking into glass’: not a review of City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

cityofstairsI’ve been rereading City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett for the past couple of days. Yes, rereading. The book is freshly out, but I had read the ARC back in April and wanted to read it again. I have terrible memory for books. I remember if I liked them or not, but plot details evaporate from my brain in mere days. It’s rather inconvenient, professionally speaking, because customers tend to not be amused by sales pitches like ‘You should read this book. It’s about things.’

I also wanted to read it again because I was going to write a proper reviewI even made notes and used post-it notes. But now that I’m actually sitting here in front of the screen, I don’t think I need to add to already enormous buzz that surrounds this book. There are many reviews out there (see, for example, this blog post on Bennett’s shiny new website, and while you are there, check out maps and images of Bulikov). You can read or skim them at your leisure, but one thing you will probably take away from this activity is that City of Stairs is amazing and worth your time.

I liked this book so much because it hit all the right notes for me. Deities in fiction, check (dead ones? even better). An Eastern European-esque culture, check (I could probably write another naming essay like I did for Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins). City as a character and great world-building, check. Mysterious artifacts, check. All of this is excellent. Pick it up.

Really, the only problem with this book is the hooded dude cover.


  1. “I remember if I liked them or not, but plot details evaporate from my brain in mere days.”

    haha, this is me, exactly! i remember that I liked a book, but can’t tell you a thing about it!

    ok, so i didn’t care for the hooded dude at first either. i was like “what? another hooded guy? are you kidding?” but the cover is basically that last chunk of the book, where all the crazyness goes down, and all that spoilery stuff happens. and then i took a closer look at cheeseball hooded guy, and I was like “oh! this is that, and this is this, and now i get the cover!”

    1. That’s true, though the problem as I see it is that a hooded guy cover indicates a certain subgenre of fantasy, and I probably wouldn’t have picked up the book if I didn’t know the author. My ARC had no cover at all.

  2. I’ll put this on my list. I really like religion in fiction, and being of Polish descent, I love eastern European topics. I’m also like you in that I can never remember plot details, just that I loved or hated a book. Just a few days ago, a new coworker and I were talking about The Golem and the Jinni and she said she hated the end because blah blah blah, and I had to respond I didn’t remember how it ended, just that I was emotionally fulfilled by the book. It’s kind of embarrassing at times 😛

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