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City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  17,152 Ratings  ·  2,261 Reviews
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’s history has been censored and erased, its citizens subjugated. But the surreal landscape of the city itself, forever altered by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it, stands as a hau ...more
Paperback, 452 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Broadway Books
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Mona I'm about a quarter of the way through. There is a previously ended romantic relationship that is part of the story, but it doesn't seem to be a…moreI'm about a quarter of the way through. There is a previously ended romantic relationship that is part of the story, but it doesn't seem to be a centerpiece of the plot, as Alissa indicates below.(less)
Charty There is not an active romance. There are two characters who were once involved and they meet again, but they don't continue or rekindle the…moreThere is not an active romance. There are two characters who were once involved and they meet again, but they don't continue or rekindle the relationship.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Rick Riordan
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Adult fantasy.

A highly original story involving gods resurrected in a modern world – how could I not be drawn to this? Set in an early industrial world where the two major nations are Bulikov (modeled loosely on Russia) and Saypur (modeled loosely on India), this story starts as a murder mystery and develops into a high fantasy of world-changing magic. Centuries ago, Bulikov had a pantheon of active gods who led their mortal worshippers to victory and made them the dominant world power through
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk
My favorite books transcend genre. This one was particularly compelling in that it mixes fantasy with an alt-world of cold, Lenin-era ambiance. The premise is that gods once actually walked the earth, but then man killed them all. The story of the book follows the consequences of this action. This is a great, meaty fantasy and I highly recommend it for the world building and fantastic characters, including a kick-ass female lead. One of my faves of 2016.
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars

A truly wonderful start to a trilogy and also one of the most original world-building I’ve ever had the chance to experience in a novel.

City of Stairs is the first book in the Divine Cities trilogy written by Robert Jackson Bennett and let me tell you guys something, this is one of those series that has been sitting in my TBR pile for way too long; since March 2017. Not only that, I’m ashamed to admit that it was also one of those series that I have considered removing from my TBR due
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Aww Yeah We Are So Doing this Again Buddy Reread (AYWASDtABR™) with some people of uncharacteristically good taste over at BB&B ●

Previous rating: 8-10 stars. I obviously read the book VERY wrong the first time around.
New rating : 20 stars. Now that's more like it.

And the moralsssssss of this reread are :

This book is so Bloody Shrimping Scrumptious (BSS™) I might die. Or worse, I might cry *shudders*

Bloody shrimping hell, I feel like I've been sucker punched. Which is slightly orgasm
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Recommended for fans of fantasy, Song for Arbonne, Full Fathom Five, Godstalk
Read this.

I almost didn't, wary of the disappointment an over- hyped book can bring. But once I started, it was very hard to put down (sorry, fellow jurors, for ignoring your social overtures during our breaks). Picked as a monthly read, I started right before being called for federal jury trial. At first, I was glad of the opportunity to get in some reading time--nothing better than sitting around reading as the gears of bureaucracy grind away--but imagine my dismay when I was picked. Suddenly
As a novel of ideas, the novel is absolutely rich and fantastic.

But when it comes to the writing, I had to complain a bit about the choice of tropes. I'm wasn't certain that a mystery was the absolute best medium to propel the main tale, but when the book is said and done, I can't fault how it was wrapped up. Everything made perfect sense. I found that I was caught up in my own prejudices even as I was reading it, and the journey had changed me in the end, which is strange enough, because we're
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, 4-star, year-2017
Actual Review: 4.5 Stars

City of Stairs is, at its heart, a murder mystery, with a hull of geopolitical strife & fueled by a peculiar magic that isn't totally understood even by the story's main characters. The perfect recipe for a story that had me up past my bed time many nights in a row.

Right off the bat it plunges the reader into the thick of the roiling tensions between two major nations with a complicated history.

Once dangerously powerful & supported by miracles performed by thei
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
What a cruel, marvelous, surprising little thing.

STEP 1 : Be intrigued by this complex, original and fascinating world-building whose layers still hide so many gems (I'm sure of it).

STEP 2 : Let the stupefaction stun you when you discover how all the threads are carefully weaved, bringing together... Well : politics, opression, a murder mystery, religion, tolerance, identity, fanaticism, racism and the ever controversial question of the Greater Good whose relevance is never a sure thing (for
Brent Weeks
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blurbed
*The following is more a blog post about blurbing City of Stairs than specifically a review. But it's mostly pertinent, so I thought it would fit here.*

A few months ago, I teased about a book I’d read that I loved, but I didn’t tell you what it was. Partly because I didn’t want to scoop the author’s own marketing efforts, and partly because, hey, I believe in obnoxiously enjoying small perks to the hilt. But here’s what I was enjoying:

Robert Jackson Bennett is one of those quirky-bright writers
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, loved-it
I absolutely, 100% loved this. So much.

I was starting to think that maybe I didn't love fantasy quite as much as I thought any more, but this year is turning out great. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong directions. Both Robert Jackson Bennet and N K Jemisin have written brilliant books that keep me glued to the page while at the same time challenging me to re-think some of my assumptions on what fantasy can do as a genre.

Set in a world formerly ruled by Divinities and their whims, Bulikov i
Very thorough world building and extremely thought-provoking story, but when it was over...?


I just wasn't moved enough to grab the next book.
I'm pretty sure it's just me because this sucker has really high ratings and the vast majority of my friends LOVED it. I just couldn't connect with the main characters enough to truly care what happened to them by the end. At first, I thought I would love it, but by the last bit, I was just wanting it to be over so I could tick this one off my list...


The bo
Mayim de Vries
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Any miracle, no matter how subtle, always feels tremendously unsettling." And what is a good book if not a miracle of a prime quality? City of Stairs proves this theory. It is one of those books you need to digest before writing a review that will not consist of banalities. And one of those that have you inwardly screaming for more the moment you finish the last sentence.

The world is less about tsarist Russia meeting the opulence of an Indian continent (although it undeniably is quite a clash)
Eon ♒Windrunner♒
There are two things I mostly avoid in my fantasy where possible. Religion & politics. I can usually stomach them in small quantities but when they play major parts of the story I lose interest. Some people may enjoy fantasy-lite, but I am not one of them. I have read and enjoyed some fantasy books of the light version, but these were few and far in between. Give me LOADS of fantasy and small pinches of religion and politics and I am a happy guy.

That said, I must have added and removed Rober
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

I’ve never actually read Robert Jackson Bennett before City of Stairs, despite owning several books by him (and I can see there’s my copies of The Troupe and American Elsewhere on my shelf right now, glaring down at me balefully as if to ask, “Why haven’t you read me yet?”) So though the name of the author is familiar to me, I really had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that this book’s description was tantalizing
Alex Ristea
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Robert Jackson Bennett is constantly hailed as one of the genre's hottest young authors. I had always assumed they were just referring to his dastardly good looks, but damn, this guy can write.

City of Stairs is such a glorious mix of genre that I won't even try to explain it that way. Go read this post from the author.

Seriously. I'll wait. And I'll know if you don't go and read it. *stares*

You're back? Good. That post is making me re-think genre, and rather than being scared, it's made me excite
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book! The world building was so impressive and the characters are brilliant. I am missing Shara and Sigrud already and I only just finished the book. Sigrud made me think very much of Logen Ninefingers in the Abercrombie books, and Shara was like any of the strong female leads in a Brandon Sanderson book. Put the two together and we had a little bit of magic.
This was a new author to me but he came very highly recommended by many Goodreads readers. The sequel is supposed to be go
Robin (Bridge Four)
I should have hated this story. It shouldn’t have worked for me at all for a few reasons.

- There is no love story. Well that isn’t specifically true. There is a story that involves two people who were a couple in the past but really that is it. In the present tense of the story there isn’t any romantic hopefuls. I love having someone in by books to ship even if nothing comes from it for books and books.

- It isn’t my typical fantasy set up. There are no dragons to be slain or lands to explore.
This is a rant about what I didn't like, it is entirely personal and I hope I don't sound too hateful. In case I do, I am sorry.

This book has such a high rating, a pity that I wasn't charmed by it. In this case I think I am the lonely soul that ends up hating what is highly praised by the majority.

It was an incredibly exhausting read.
I felt like I was reading 900 pages instead of 400-something.
I don't recommend it, no matter whether you are a sci-fi or fantasy fan. This was more of a mystery no
Kells Next Read
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
 photo city-of-stairs_zpsztvfach4.jpg

The Divine may have created many hells, but I think they are pale beside what men created for themselves

Where do I begin with this read...hmmm, I honestly don't know. It was...*no no* I feel *that's not it* Oh boy, I am speechless people. This book was flawlessly penned and beautifully told. My emotions literally ran from one extremity to the next. This book I can say is (so far ) my best read of 2016.

Guys it has Everything!!! Mr Bennet ( my first read from this author )has ripped open my chest
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
For my individual taste, this novel is mystery first, fantasy second. As a mystery novel, I am not so satisfied with the plot and conclusion. As a fantasy novel, it is a damn good one!

When I read the beginning, I rated it 3 star. Then at the middle, I like the fantasy portion more and more, rated it 4 star. I have to admit, there are fresh ideas about the magic (in the book, the magic is mentioned as miracles). After reading half of the book, I wanted to know more about the world. This book gave
Scott  Hitchcock
A blend of urban fantasy, intelligence services, espionage with various gods thrown into the action. The book was definitely a slow burn getting better and better as it went along. The last 75 pages were great. This is setup well for the next two books in the series which I shall be reading.
In the end, we're all tea drinkers.

Let's leave that standing there for a moment, as I will come back to it later.

Robert Jackson Bennet's "City of Stairs" takes place in the fictional city of Bulikov. Bulikov is the center of the continent, a western civilazation with slavic naming conventions, and the continent ruled the world in the past with the help of their gods.
The gods, called the divinities, were an active part of the society, interacted with their followers, allowed the use of many mysti
 ⚔ Sh3lly ⚔

Welp, here's another one I guess I am the oddball out on. I liked the idea, there were some interesting premises with the world-building, but I got to 43% and it just seemed like NOTHING had happened. There were hints of exciting things that might be coming, but that's all they were, little glimpses. The politics of the society just bored me. The writing was good and it's definitely an "it's me, not you" thing. I just may be too dumb to "get" this (IJMBTDTGT™). Took that trademark idea from my f
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?”
And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks a
Liam Degnan
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
“The Divine may have created many hells", he says, "but I think they pale beside what men create for themselves.”

2.5 Stars: ✰✰

I had to take just a little bit of a hiatus from Goodreads due to some personal and family emergencies, combined with a busy two weeks at work, and finals week for school. But I'm back now =].

This was one of the most frustratingly inconsistent books I have read in a very long time. I very literally hated half of it, and yet simultaneously really loved the other ha
Althea Ann
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bennett's not an author who's been on my radar - and that's going to have to change.

'City of Stairs' is a top-notch fantasy spy thriller.

It begins with a murder mystery... noted scholar Ephrem Pangyui has been killed in the city of Bulikov. Soon, Shara arrives on the scene to investigate.

Her job is complicated, however, by the fact that just about everyone in Bulikov is a suspect.

For hundreds of years, the Continental empire, of which Bulikov was the capital, ruled the Saypuri with a strong ha
David Sven
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Good world building with an intriguing secondary world that resembled a cross between late 19th century Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Bennett's city of Bulikov reminded me a bit of Ul Qoma in China Mieville's The City & the City. The narrative plodded along in the first half but I didn't mind so much because I just liked imagining a city with stairs that go nowhere and buildings that look like they were once more than they were. And what about the city walls that defy science being tran
Executive Summary: Looks like I'll be adding to all the hype. This is definitely one of the better books I've read this year. Only a few minor issues. 4.5 stars.

Full Review
The two most hyped books this fall (at least among my circle of friends) was this book and The Mirror Empire. After being a bit let down by Mirror Empire, I was wary of this one. I almost didn't read it. I'm glad that I did.

Rob gets on the bandwagon

I don't know where to start. This book is well written. Part mystery, part fa
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-fantasy
This book just passed The Girl With All The Gifts for my favorite read of 2014.

This is my first encounter with Robert Jackson Bennett, although I have seen a number of his books being highly praised. And now I can see why.

When the Divinities are killed, everything begins to collapse. Anything the Divinities created is gone, and their people, the Continentals, now live in ruin, overthrown the the people they attempted to conquer with their Gods, The Saypuri. Rules outlaw speaking of the Gods, or
Enjoyed it even more the second time! Helps that I have the memory of a dead goldfish so I forget a lot of the details between reads. Really excited to move on to book 2, hoping it's as gripping as the first.

I loved this! It was fun and interesting and kept me guessing. The characters were great and the author changed POV only when necessary for the storyline and didn't keep to a schedule of any kind which really worked well. The world building was great and I found myself wishing for a
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Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. His fifth novel, City of Stairs, is in stores now.

He lives in Austin with his wife and son. He can be found on Twitter at @ro
More about Robert Jackson Bennett

Other books in the series

The Divine Cities (3 books)
  • City of Blades (The Divine Cities, #2)
  • City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)

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And Olvos said to them: “Why have you done this, my children? Why is the sky wreathed with smoke? Why have you made war in far places, and shed blood in strange lands?

And they said to Her: “You blessed us as Your people, and we rejoiced, and were happy. But we found those who were not Your people, and they would not become Your people, and they were willful and ignorant of You. They would not open their ears to Your songs, or lay Your words upon their tongues. So we dashed them upon the rocks and threw down their houses and shed their blood and scattered them to the winds, and we were right to do so. For we are Your people. We carry Your blessings. We are Yours, and so we are right. Is this not what You said?”

And Olvos was silent.
“Forgetting... is a beautiful thing. When you forget, you remake yourself... For a caterpillar to become a butterfly, it must forget it was a caterpillar at all. Then it will be as if the caterpillar never was & there was only ever a butterfly.” 43 likes
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