City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The opening pages surely didn’t indicate that I would come to enjoy the book as much as I did. In fact, I spent the first roughly 40 pages lamenting that I had committed myself to the book. The story did eventually take off. However, it as the worldbuilding that actually drew me into the story and left it’s mark.
The opening truly was a bit of a drag. We were dropped into a story just before everything went down. It gave us a bit of an idea about the world, but it kept is from our main character. It gave us structure, but wasn’t interesting enough to make me fall in love with the world. This continued to the plot. I cared little for Pangyui, but it allowed us to see more of the world and learn how it worked.
As the story went on, we slowly learned more and more about what made the world tick. We learned of the Divinities and their miracles. All the nuts and bolts and the history of it all was what was truly interesting. I found myself so deeply engaged on these tangents of history that I found myself clamoring for more.
The one downside of the worldbuilding was the fact that we had no real idea of the scope of the world. We know that there are the various locales that the Divinities presided over. There was also Saypur. There was the place Sigrud, a dreyling, was from. There is no real idea of the vast expanse of the land. How far are these places? Normally, that isn’t something I don’t pay much attention to. The story, however, called for at least a basic understanding because the different places were frequently referenced.
As for the characters, I found that I didn’t get much of a connection to any of them. They were amusing, each with their own baggage and personality. Shara was determined, but more a facilitator of the story rather than someone that I found could relate to. Sigrud was a tough man, with a fascinating history, but again he was more a utility character to help move through the story. I wished throughout the story that I could like the characters more than I did.