City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)
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How do they do it? Pitry wonders. How can anyone in Bulikov sit next to the city walls or even live with them in sight, peeking through the blinds and drapes of high windows, and feel in any way normal?
Robert Bennett
I considered starting every DIVINE CITIES book with Pitry meeting the protagonist - readers of CITY OF BLADES might find some faint ironic echoes there - but the plot of MIRACLES simply didn't allow it, unfortunately. I hope you enjoy these author notes for CITY OF STAIRS. I also wrote them for my new book FOUNDRYSIDE (out now!)-- maybe check those out too and read along with me.
Juho Salo and 55 other people liked this
Maria
Maria
These are awesome!! I love this! Thanks!
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She watches. She watches the crumbling arches, the leaning, bulky vaults, the tattered spires and the winding streets. She watches the faded tracery on the building facades, the patchwork of tiles on the sagging domes, the soot-stained lunettes, and the warped, cracked windows. She watches the people—short, rag-wrapped, malnourished—stumbling through oblong portals and porticoes, beggars in a city of spectral wonders. She sees everything she expected to see, yet all these dreary ruins set her mind alight, wondering what they could have been like seventy, eighty, ninety years ago.
Robert Bennett
Every once in a while - mostly due to reader comments - I find myself wondering if the present tense is worth writing in. But the opening sequence to this chapter dispels any such thoughts from my mind.
Elenora
Elenora
I love writing in the present tense. It gives an immediacy that can be hard to handle but the result is always worth it. Finding your books was all the proof I needed to cement that opinion. You pull …
Rebecca Hodgkins
Rebecca Hodgkins
Do your readers complain? I find I'm writing a lot of books/stories in present tense, too, and have worried that it puts some people off. But I'm seeing more and more of it.
Ashley Marie
Ashley Marie
I'd forgotten until my current reread (2nd time through) that this was written in present tense, but I love it all the same.
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Though of course the Kaj could not know that he was almost directly responsible for the devastation of the Continent, for it was the Kaj’s successful assassination of the Divinity Taalhavras that brought about the Blink …
Robert Bennett
The most tantalizing way to experience the fantastical, I find, is from a peripheral perspective. It's like the shark in Jaws - you glimpse its form somewhere in the waters, and you think you see something, but you're never really sure.
Elenora
Elenora
The steepest form of 'show don't tell'. Your comment reminds me of the scene in Spirited Away where Haku runs with Chihiro at the start. We barely know or understand the world she's in, and we have th…
11%
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Turyin Mulaghesh is, much like her offices, cold, spare, brutal, and efficient, a creature so born and bred for battle and order that she cannot tolerate another manner of living. She is one of the most muscular women Shara has ever seen, sporting wiry biceps and a sinewy neck and shoulders.
Robert Bennett
When I first outlined CITY OF STAIRS, Mulaghesh was going to be a man - a pompous, patriarchal, doting general, whom Shara would promptly dupe. But since Troonyi had already been a lot like that, and we'd seen her deftly handle him, I didn't much like that. One night, while wondering what to do, I fell upon the idea of making the character a woman - a smart, shrewd person whom Shara could not dupe, and would have to work with. The entire book came alive after that, and Shara, Sigrud, and Mulaghesh quickly became the book's main trio, with Mulaghesh filling in for the audience, asking questions about the Divine.
Jennifer and 71 other people liked this
Samantha
Samantha
Loved Mulagesh and Shara and I give out my lending copy of City of Stairs to women that I want the, to love the pair as I did.
Brian
Brian
Mulaghesh was a favorite of mine in CoS and I really enjoyed her expanded role in CoB.
Izzy H
Izzy H
I really appreciate how you were able to answer the questions that we had about the Divine without making it too awkward by creating a character who know about as much as we did :)
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and there is something on his mask, something large and white-pink and rippled that extends outward, into the doorway, where Cheyschek cannot see. As Cheyschek nears, he sees that the something on his compatriot’s face is actually somethings: a pair of huge hands grasps the sides of the man’s head, yet the thumbs have been shoved deep into the man’s eye sockets, all the way up to the second knuckle.
Robert Bennett
In college I read a leaked script of BATMAN BEGINS, and I appreciated that the audience's first sighting of the superhero felt like something out of the movie ALIEN: you saw the action from the point of view of the criminals, and Batman was their predator. I always enjoy that nasty thrill, staging a scene so that the hero is more like the monster from a horror movie.
Tyler and 19 other people liked this
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So whenever Shara is really puzzled by something, she takes her thoughts and sorts them, threshing them out like chaff from wheat, tunneling down and through her mind as she tries to wring truth from everything she knows, a frequently endless list of annotations, qualifications, categorizations, and exceptions all collected as she interrogates herself:
Robert Bennett
Structuring Shara's thought processes like a long, complicated list is one of the more whimsical things I've ever done as a writer.
Aditi and 15 other people liked this
Leticia
Leticia
This was when this book went from "it's good" to "I love it" for me. I actually remember where I was when I read it.
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“No,” I said. “I am on an errand. I have a Burden. I must deliver my Burden to Jukov himself, and no one else.” And they laughed.
Robert Bennett
Others may disagree, but Jukov is/was probably the most terrifying entity in the DIVINE CITIES world.
David Dunnagan
David Dunnagan
Fully agree.
William
William
Uh....I dunno about that. If you ask me the most terrifying entity in the DIVINE CITIES is the entity in the last section of the third book. You know who I'm talking about.
46%
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Mulaghesh has never looked at this list—she never wanted to—but she casts an eye over a page now, reviewing notes written decades ago by the now-dead Saypuri soldiers who locked all these things away:
Robert Bennett
Lists of whimsical, magic things that no one understands are always fun to write. That's half of HARRY POTTER, really
Eefara and 15 other people liked this
Mike
Mike
That was honestly what I thought of at first read when this part came about. I pictured it as a mix between the room of requirement's storage incarnation, the dept. of mysteries with its shadowy conte…
50%
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“You’re a mhovost, aren’t you? One of Jukov’s pets.” The little girl sits up, but there is something disturbingly mechanical about the motion, as if she’s being pulled by strings. Her face, which was once contorted into a look of such heart-piercing agony, is now utterly blank, like that of a doll.
Robert Bennett
I'm not sure I've ever written something as gleefully nasty as the mhovost - though I'm working on it.
54%
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The interior of the Unmentionable Warehouse is musty beyond belief, much more so than the Seat of the World: it is like entering the home of a hugely ancient, hoarding old couple. Shara hacks miserably against the bloody handkerchief around her hand. “Is there no ventilation here?”
Robert Bennett
Steven Spielberg went into his own Unmentionable Warehouse in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but I didn't find it terribly thrilling. I felt obliged to write my own rendition, possibly in response.
Anton and 10 other people liked this
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Sigrud’s boots make hollow thumps as he walks across the ice. He can tell right away that the ice is slightly less than two feet thick. A good ice, he thinks, for sleighs and horses.
Robert Bennett
I remember folding laundry and listening to Promentory from LAST OF THE MOHICANS and suddenly getting the idea for this scene. I wish I could bottle that feeling.
Ryan and 21 other people liked this
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I sing and caper Dance and twirl And many a merry pattern I weave But cross me not, children For there is no burning coal in all the fires of Bulikov No raging storm in all the South Seas No element on this earth or in this world That could match my fury. My name is Jukov And I do not forget. —THE JUKOSHTAVA, BOOK SIX
Robert Bennett
Seriously, I forgot how fucking creepy Jukov is.
Clare and 18 other people liked this
Rebecca Hodgkins
Rebecca Hodgkins
I got a real, "The Great God Pan" vibe when reading about him. I think he's my favorite of your deities. Totally creepy.
84%
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“WHEN I AM MET,” says the voice, “I AM TO BE MET WITH THE FLAME AND THE SPARROW.” A long pause. “WHY DO YOU NOT BEAR THEM?”
Robert Bennett
This is one of the most satisfying scenes I've ever written. Gods are most unreasonable things.
Rebecca Hodgkins
Rebecca Hodgkins
Like rock stars.
86%
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I damn my fate, thinks Shara, with all my heart. She stuffs the pills in her mouth and swallows.
Robert Bennett
I'd planned most of the big scenes in CITY OF STAIRS, but Shara taking a shitload of hallucinogenics was one I improvised. It worked out well.
87%
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She immediately sees that they are walking tangles of many complicated miracles, but inside there are real human beings, people who have been forcefully conscripted into Kolkan’s service.
Robert Bennett
Who knew I'd already come up with a big part of FOUNDRYSIDE so long ago?
Sahitya and 19 other people liked this
Billy Rodriguez
Billy Rodriguez
I have it set to 'Want to Read', but I don't get giant cliff notes from the author for any other books on that list.
Isis
Isis
Probably because most authors don't post giant Cliff's Notes for their books. Which is a darn shame IMO!
Billy Rodriguez
Billy Rodriguez
Sure, it's great for someone who finished the book, and wants to refresh their memory before the next one, but terrible for those tracking the book to read later.