British Fiction Focus

The Blades of Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs is an awesome novel. That much shouldn’t be news to you. Here on, Kameron Hurley confessed to falling a little in love with it, and in last year’s Reviewers’ Choice, Justin Landon and Rob H. Bedford both sang the praises of Robert Jackson Bennett’s first fantasy. I only read it recently, or I’d have made mention of it in my contribution too.

But better late than never! And it turns out my timing wasn’t too terrible, because today, it’s my tremendous pleasure to tell you that the Shirley Jackson Award-winning author’s first fantasy won’t be his last.

Indeed, Bennett has been busy working on a sequel to City of Stairs—another first for him:

This is my first sequel to anything I’ve written. I had not initially planned to write a sequel for [City of] Stairs, since trying to extrapolate what would happen next in that world would likely be, uh, hard. But my agent and editor more or less said, “You already did a ton of work creating this playground, don’t you want to at least play around in it for a while?” and this naturally appealed to my strongest characteristic, laziness.

It’s called City of Blades, and Jo Fletcher danced a victory dance when she announced she’d acquired it.

Bennett himself has been blogging about the book for a little longer. Last December, upon completion of the first draft, he “slapped together” this description:

The city of Voortyashtan was once the home of the goddess of death, war and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin.

General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone AWOL in the middle of a mission.

But the ghosts of past wars have followed her there, and soon she begins to wonder what happened to the souls in the afterlife when the gods were defeated by her people, the Polis. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

“That doesn’t quite cover it,” Bennett hedged, “but it’s a good start.”

It’s about war, death, duty, sacrifice, and honour. And I think it might actually be a little better than City of Stairs, in my own personal opinion.

Oh, and don’t worry—Sigrud is prominently featured as well.

That’ll be a relief to any number of readers. For my part, I saw Sigrud as one of City of Stairs’ least successful elements: “a hammer in a world of nails” is the quote I use in my Strange Horizons review. That said, his presence suggests we’ll have the chance to catch up with the central character of Bennett’s first fantasy, Shara, who—unless something dramatic has happened—is usually joined at the hip to Sigrud.

City of Blades

There’s been no sign of UK cover art for the sequel so far—that’s the North American version above—but we do have a date, and happily, it’s a matter of months in advance of the overseas release: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in early August.

Be there—seriously—or I’ll have no other option but to set Sigrud on you!

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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