Tuesday, June 24, 2014
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
In Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs I found a fantasy book unlike any other that I had read. Instead of taking place in a world that felt like Europe in the Middle Ages it takes a different approach and throws you in a world that feels more like Russia than anything else. I am no historian, but that is what it felt like to me and I am sticking to it.
A big part of the premise of the book is trying to show you how our view of history can color all of our actions. It also discusses the effect history has on the perception of people. When we are introduced to this world we find out that the "divinities" (the local gods) have been killed off. The country that is currently in power had in the past been subjugated by the lands with divinities for their lack of a deity. Eventually a man discovered a method to kill the divinities and went to war and won. Now that they were in power they were doing their best to suppress all mentions of the divinities and to get rid of all the history that related to their power or the miracles they produced. This leads me to the magic system in the book.
Not only was the setting unique, the magic system was also unlike any other that I had read. While the divinities were alive they created many miracles. Some of them could be as simple as a stone cup that left in the sun would fill with goat's milk every morning. They could imbue an item with power or teach others certain steps to take to have a miracle take shape for them. For example if they drew on a mirror or window with a certain symbol they could create a visual connection with another room to have a conversation with the person there.
When the divinities died most of these stopped working, but not all of them. All items and books that discussed these things were destroyed or locked away for fear that they would be dangerous, in that they would cause the newly godless people to remember what they had lost and cause them to riot.
This book is very well written. It has interesting characters, spies, political intrigue, religious fanaticism and plenty more. I will admit that the first 30-50 pages were decent, but I wasn't hooked until a little bit past that. Once I was hooked however, I couldn't put the book down. I am very interested to see what Bennett will offer us in the future and I hope that this world gets visited at least once more.
Rating 4.5 Stars