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Wanting a break from my usual listening fare, I decided to give City of Stairs a listen. The book is described as a fantasy, but it is definitely not your typical story of Kings and Knights set in a world of Elves and Ogres. City of Stairs is set in a world with magic and wonders, but also some modern conveniences.
This book would seem to have all you need for a fantastic journey, starting with a very good performance by Alma Cuervo as the narrator, who's voice seemed perfect for the main character Sharra. The premise of the story is good as well. In a city built by gods, Sharra is a secret agent who has come to investigate the murder of a top government employee by the long suppressed people of the city. The gods have been killed by a long since dead relative of Sharra herself, and their country has been occupied ever since.
I liked the premise of this story right from the beginning, however quickly found out that there are some issues with this book as well. To start, the first half of the book starts to bog down as there is nothing really happening other than long sequences of info dumps. Characters seem to sit around and tell the story of how the city came into being rather than the story naturally laying out what had happened as the story progresses. In one example, Sharra is confronted by a city leader over her questioning of a citizen of the city. She reluctantly lets the citizen leave, and then is so angry that she invites everyone around her to the kitchen where she cooks a meal for them and proceeds to tell the entire history of every god, including what their beliefs are, their relationship with the other gods, and how they died. All interesting stuff, but the scenario made no sense, and the telling drug out miserably.
Other issues were the setting itself. I was intrigued by the setting initially as fantasy type books usually don't include such things as cars, trains, and guns. The odd thing though is that even though Sharra arrives and departs on a train, then rides in a car to the embassy, and speaks about the use of guns hundreds of years before, none of these things are featured much in the story. Cars are available, but everyone walks everywhere. Guns are available, yet everyone uses swords, knives, and cross bolts. Trains and cars have been invented, but modern conveniences like lights, plumbing, or phones have not. It's a little confusing.
Overall, despite the slow start, once the story gets going and the action picks up, I did find myself enjoying this book. The characters were mostly likable, and that carries a story with some holes in it.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
This book is incredible. I thought it would be interesting and thought provoking and it was, but sometimes that means boring and it wasn't that. There are great characters, a unique world and a murder to be solved that keeps your attention while the world building unfolds.
I've never read another Robert Bennett book but this one is definitely in the fantasy genre. Lots of Gods and monsters and miracles. It's kind of hard to describe without experiencing it and I definitely recommend that.
The narrator fits the story very well, she differentiates between the characters very well and definitely does not distract you from the story.
It seems to be a stand alone novel but I definitely would not mind hearing another story take place in this world or with these characters.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful