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City of Stairs

(The Divine Cities #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  32,832 ratings  ·  3,355 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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Robert Bennett
Robert Bennett - dull suburban dad with slightly interesting side job

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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 cente…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 relations…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)

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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: steampunk, fantasy
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
Shelves: favorites
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
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
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Previous rating: 20 stars.
New rating : 22 stars. Because why the shrimp not.

And the moral of this rereread is : this book. This Bloody Fishing Book (BFB™). It is Slightly Extremely Good (SEG™) and stuff.

And the other moral of this rereread is : Colonel Turyin Mulaghesh, I want to be you when I grow up. Now let's dance and stuff.

P.S. Sigrud = YUM, just so you know.

· Book 2: City of Blades ★★★★★
· Book 3: City of Miracles ★★★★★

[March 2017]

· Aww Yeah We Are So Doing this Again Buddy R
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: year-2017, 4-star
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 their deitie
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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
4.5 Stars ⭐️ Reread....

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
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
Helen 2.0
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The city knows. It remembers. The past is written in its bones, though now the past speaks in silences.

This book is genius! At some points the writing is so lovely I had to stop reading for a second to bask in its glory. That's part of the reason why it took me so long to read the book - I didn't want it to end.

City of Stairs is set in an imaginative epic fantasy, almost steampunk setting. The Continent was once protected by mighty gods, allowing them to colonize and enslave many surrounding
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
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 Robert Ja
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)
Robin (Bridge Four)
Re-Read cuz Sarah said so. It was even better the second time around 4.5 Stars

Original Review

I should have hated this story. It shouldn’t have worked for me at all for a few reasons.

① - 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 book
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 n
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
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
TS Chan
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physical-owned
4.5 stars.

Sometimes you wonder why you keep delaying a series that you have been meaning to read, and when you've finally read it, you want to smack yourself hard for waiting so long to do so. Divine Cities falls right into this category of "Why in the world did it take me so long to read this? It is so good!"

Arising from my plans this year to read more completed trilogies, I have been blessed with some astoundingly good reads thus far, and City of Stairs is one of them. How do I even begin to
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, fantasy
City of Stairs is not your usual fantasy. It is set in a relatively modern world (in comparison to the usual high fantasy) where we have cars, photography, and telegrams. I wouldn't say it's cyberpunk exactly, I'm not a big fan of this genre, for technology was not an important aspect in this book.

The best thing about City of Stairs is the world-building. I am not hard to please when it comes to world-building, I only want some question answered, I don’t want to be confused, and that’s basically
Feb 05, 2021 rated it liked it
3.75 stars

tw: biphobia; body horror

As a really big fan of Robert Jackson Bennett's newer series, I thought I'd like this more than I did. It took a while for me to get into this, as it started with mostly political intrigue and a murder mystery. But as the story goes on and world building was added, I started to enjoy it more. There is a former love interest of the main character who is bisexual, and I don't think that was handled well at all. The narrative has a lot of biphobic language about
Manuel Antão
Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

The Glamorisation of Suffering: "City of Stairs" by Robert Jackson Bennett

When is it necessary to kill a character to get a point across? I’m thinking about Vo here. By the time we get to the point when things get moving, I’ve already seen how damaging his religious upbringing had been to him. I've already seen how it had wreaked him and how this agony had shaped him into the character’s he'd become. I got that; bumping him off does no
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Amazing fantasy, incredible world-building, complex characters, creative magic systems ... this book pretty much has it all!

December 2018 group read with the Buddies, Books and Baubles group. Thanks to Sarah and the group for motivating me to read it when it’s been sitting on my Kindle for, like, a year.

Review to come. :)
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
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Celeste by: Petrik
You can find this review and more at Novel Notions.
“Time renders all people and all things silent. And gods, it seems, are no exception.”

I have a confession to make. I purchased this trilogy in February of 2017, even preordered the final installment though I hadn’t read the first two. I just knew that it was a trilogy that I would love based off of the synopsis. There is nothing in the realm of fiction that I love more than unique religions and overt philosophizing. While setting and characte
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Have you ever read a book that had things you usually hate but does them all brilliantly you just don't know what to feel? Do I like or hate this?
I do know it's not perfect tho, thus the 4 stars.

Let me start by saying that this is not the usual fantasy book, or at least it's not what I think about when I hear fantasy. Fantasy for me usually means kings, assassins, magic, gods, heroes, battles and the all-consuming evil that wants to kill everyone. While this book has almost all of that, it was m
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 ch
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
Deborah Obida
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deborah by: Petrik
“I never saw a country before," says the robed man. "All I saw was the earth under my feet.”

Now that is what I call original, This book is one of those books that has more than one genre, I don't even know how to shelve it, I'm shelving it as urban fantasy even though it felt like epic fantasy but the technology ruined that. There also used guns in this so this is more of historical fiction I guess.

“Forgetting... is a beautiful thing. When you forget, you remake yourself... For a caterpi
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
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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. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 Wo ...more

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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51 likes · 18 comments
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.” 59 likes
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