I have to admit to being a bit late to post this, as I read City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet earlier last month but during my three weeks of being sick as a dog. So I didn’t get a review up.
This is a great example of what I would have called, prior to the early 2000s, “Urban Fantasy.” That is to say, a fantasy novel set in a city and influenced by historical cities. The genre label of Urban Fantasy was rebadged by publishers taking paranormal romance into a wider market a while back, so Urban Fantasy became something very different.
But City of Stairs is a great example of that sort of fantasy that resists the countryside and bucolic pastoralism that affects some fantasy. The city of Bulikov, a place ravaged by the impact of colonialism and war and once-great magic is as much a character as anyone else in the book.
Technology, magic’s side effects and implications, all of that is explored thoroughly, making for a book that reminds me of China Mievelle’s landscapes, or K.J. Parker’s rationalist worldbuilding.
Definitely worth a read.