Book Review — City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 excited for the future generation of writers.

City of Stairs is a small, punchy story in a big, big world. We are introduced to a strange city beautifully described through the language and supported by a sturdy narrative through-line.

Expect excellent world-building, but it has so much more than that.

The characters, for one.

Sigurd starts off as fun and a bit of an archetypical badass Northman. You think you see where this is going…but you become stupidly attached to him once you see his story in more depth. He becomes deep as fuck and it throws your entire view of him upside-down (to great effect, of course).

There are more than a few incredibly confident female leads. If you’re into that sort of thing (and why would you not be?), I can recommend this book on that alone.

The best part though, is that the characters are like real people, and in a way I’ve never seen in fiction before.

Let me explain. When you first meet someone in real life, they can seem so suave and confident—you are essentially seeing their best side. And then as you get to know them better…and their other side comes out. It’s a bit dorky. It’s a bit silly. It’s still them, but more rounded than you had initially realized. You know what I mean.

How often does this happen in fiction? City of Stairs rocks at this. The characters start off memorable and colourful, but you get the feeling that you start to see another side of them as it goes on. And they’re the better for it. You start to see their failures, insecurities, and quirks, and it builds a relationship that most books can only hope to do.

Through it all, Robert Jackson Bennet has such a brilliant authorial voice. Depth when needed, striking realism and wit otherwise. Excellent humour. A subtle plot that doesn’t feel constructed for the sake of the story, but rather naturally stems from the world and its characters. It’s simply the most fascinating style.

Rab is right. You’re reading this amazingly modern book with swearing and jokes and awkward sex and then a scene straight out of motherfucking Beowulf hits the page. It’s truly magnificent, and I want you to read City of Stairs right now.

This is the [insert genre] novel you didn’t even know you were waiting for. Get this ASAP.

Or I guess, on September 9th, when it comes out from Crown Publishing Group (USA) and Jo Fletcher Books (UK). More details here.

View all my reviews


3 thoughts on “Book Review — City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

  1. It was an incredible read, wasn’t it? I’m not quite sure where Sigurd went from background figure to ass-kicking epic hero, but man-oh-man did he get his big moment. 🙂

    • Yeah, it was a subtle transition. His backstory fascinated me most and brought so much depth to his character.

      Anybody can kick ass. But to make us care so much while you’re doing it? Excellent.

  2. Pingback: Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs Review Round-Up | Chaos Horizon

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