This is the best book I’ve read in a long while. As a reader, it makes me SO happy on just so many levels. As a writer, I found myself often clenching my fists with rage, thinking “Ugh, I will never write this well”.
City of Stairs is an adventure fantasy about a spy who sends herself to a war-torn former-religious center of a destroyed civilization to investigate the murder of one of her friends. Although she arrives there to solve a mystery, she finds significantly more as she step by step unravels the layers of intrigue, zealotry, belief, hatred, and corruption at work within the city and the Empire she has served her whole life. The world is amazingly complex, and yet also consistently clear, with its own distinct rules and feel that at once totally alien and also feel very familiar to the issues and themes of religion/globalization/subjugation which plague our modern world. But as fascinating as the world is, the characters are what really sell it and kept me engrossed page after page. They live and breathe, grumble and curse, and don’t want to be heroes, but do what they have to do.
And there are flying ships. It’s awesome. Everyone who loves well-written fantasy should read this book. I know I’m going to be seeking out the sequel, City of Blades, as soon as I can.