City Of Stairs
After the epic
Release Date: OUT NOW!
420 pages | £ 20 ( hardback)/£ 6.17 ( ebook) Author: Robert Jackson Bennett Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Epic fantasy deals in
the big canvas: huge, fate- of- theworld tales after which nothing will ever be the same again. It’s rarer for the genre to explore what happens next.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s swords- and- sorcery novel does just that, opening a couple of generations on from a great war in which the once enslaved Saypuri conquered the Continent and overthrew their former masters’ gods. But when the epic is done and all that’s left is the slow and messy task of rebuilding, who wins and who loses? What’s remembered, and what’s forgotten?
It’s invigoratingly ambitious, and Bennett’s imagination is up to the challenge. The difficulty of forging a brave new world is brilliantly invoked in the idea of the “Blink”, a destabilisation of reality caused by the gods’ defeat. Across the Continent, landscapes have been violently rewritten; Bulikov, the titular “city of stairs”, is full of half- buildings and vanished streets and staircases that lead nowhere. Yet little pockets of the past bleed through, both literally and in the hopes of a frustrated population.
The book’s mechanics don’t always keep pace with its imagination: the dialogue creaks under the strain of infodumping and the plotting sometimes relies upon a very clever protagonist being too slow on the uptake. But this is an absorbing and mature work, with some fantastically creepy monsters. Nic Clarke