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Robert Jackson Bennett

Author of City of Stairs

19+ Works 8,448 Members 570 Reviews 8 Favorited

About the Author


Works by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs (2014) 2,001 copies, 148 reviews
Foundryside (2018) 1,825 copies, 87 reviews
City of Blades (2016) 800 copies, 64 reviews
American Elsewhere (2013) 719 copies, 56 reviews
City of Miracles (2017) 624 copies, 71 reviews
Shorefall (2020) 621 copies, 30 reviews
The Tainted Cup (2024) 427 copies, 34 reviews
Mr. Shivers (2010) 419 copies, 21 reviews
Locklands (2022) 307 copies, 17 reviews
The Troupe (2012) 276 copies, 15 reviews
The Company Man (2011) 194 copies, 7 reviews
Vigilance (2019) 139 copies, 15 reviews
The Divine Cities Trilogy (2018) 61 copies, 2 reviews
In the Shadows of Men (2020) 22 copies, 2 reviews

Associated Works

Dark Duets: All-New Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy (2014) — Contributor — 104 copies, 4 reviews
The Lion and the Aardvark: Aesop's Modern Fables (2013) — Contributor — 13 copies, 1 review
Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring '20s (2011) — Contributor — 11 copies, 2 reviews
Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 46 • March 2014 (2014) — some editions — 9 copies, 1 review
Subterranean Magazine Summer 2012 — Contributor — 2 copies, 1 review


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Common Knowledge

Legal name
Bennett, Robert Jackson
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Places of residence
Austin, Texas, USA
University of Texas
speculative fiction writer



This is a compellingly told mystery in which readers get enough clues to glimpse a bit ahead of the viewpoint character, who has an enhanced analog to eidetic memory, but not quite enough to formulate the conclusions made by his boss, the lead investigator. The very strange world in which almost all tech is biotech and most of those we encounter are somewhat or vastly adapted to the roles within the Empire that they preform to fight a seasonal but endlessly recurring attack from the eastern sea by inconceivably large monsters. Monsters, in the proximity of which, living or dead, biological alterations proliferate.
The assistant investigator, Dinios Kol, struck me as a bit too much of the standard capable fellow, even carrying his own guilty secrets, and his boss, Ana Dolabra, as more contrived than she quite needed to be. Still, they were good, entertaining company in which to learn about this new world. And yes, it is a Watson/Holmes setup, though there is no social equality with this pair.
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quondame | 33 other reviews | Jun 29, 2024 |
A fantasy murder mystery served with a dollop of Pacific Rim, garnished with a hint of The Goblin Emperor, and a tiny sprig of romance. It was nicely written with interesting world-building and enjoyable characters; Ana, in particular, was a delight. The murder plot and its somewhat deflated resolution kept this at a 3-star rating for me. Though the opportunity is rarely afforded in fantasy whodunits, I like to follow along and solve crimes too! While it didn't guarantee a sequel a place on my to-read list, I might try more from this author.… (more)
73pctGeek | 33 other reviews | Jun 24, 2024 |
So far, my only experience with the works of Robert Jackson Bennet comes from Foundryside, a novel I enjoyed and a world I intend to return to, as soon as my messy TBR will allow it, but I have to say that with The Tainted Cup this author was able to fire my imagination even more, so I don’t regret having temporarily forgotten his previous series to launch myself into his newest endeavor.

The novel opens with a most horrific sight: a high-ranking officer is found dead in the mansion of a prominent family, killed by a tree that apparently grew out of his body. The investigator tasked with the case, eccentric Ana Dolabra, sends her assistant Dinios Kol to the mansion for a first inspection of the site: Din is an engraver, an individual altered to possess eidetic memory, and as he and Ana proceed with their investigation, they encounter evidence that this murder might only be the proverbial tip of a larger iceberg, one that might carry a great danger for the empire.

The story itself is much more convoluted and layered than it might look from my short synopsis, but it deserves to be approached knowing as little as possible, to be able to appreciate all its intriguing hints and misdirections. Besides, what makes this novel so fascinating lies more in the imaginative world-building and - of course - in the characters. This is a world where plants are everywhere: they are used as construction materials and they are also employed, together with other natural “ingredients”, in the physical alterations that gift people with special abilities, like increased strength or - as is the case for Din and other engravers - eidetic memory. But they can also produce infestations, a kind of danger that always lurks in the background and keeps people on edge about the possibility of contamination: the anomalous tree growth that led to the initial victim’s demise is indeed one of these contaminations that people are afraid of. And that’s not the only trouble afflicting this world, one in which civilization is threatened by incursions from gigantic sea creatures, called leviathans, against which three concentric rings of walls have been erected, with the ruling power - and the high aristocracy - residing in the innermost one. Leviathans always attack in the world’s wet season, and as the story starts it’s that time of the year, so that the monstrous creatures’ inland forays add another layer of trouble to an already troublesome situation.

Ana and Din are an apparently mismatched but very effective investigative team: she is a bizarre individual, to say the least, one graced with a brilliant mind and impressive deductive powers, but also with a quirky disposition and the habit of going about blindfolded so as not to be overwhelmed by sensory input. To call her “eccentric” would be a huge understatement, but little by little we discover that the surface eccentricity hides a very sharp mind and the ability to draw unexpected conclusions from the collected evidence: she might come across as both harsh and mercurial, and at times she reminded me of the character of Avasarala in The Expanse, but as the story progresses we understand that there are untapped depths to her and also a great capacity for empathy.

Din changes quite a bit in the course of the story: at first he looks somewhat uptight and stiff, but as we get to know him we understand where he comes from and what the source of his constant anxiousness is - besides his humble origins, Din is plagued by what amounts to dyslexia, a problem that affects his work as an engraver and one he has found some runarounds to, but still worries about being discovered. I have to say that his struggles managed to make me root for him quite soon, and to admire his efforts in compensating for this problem.

If Bennett throws his readers into the story with little or no previous information, he manages to bring them up to speed with his world through the investigation itself, entwining the world-building with the accumulation of clues that Ana and Din pursue through a compelling escalation that never forgets its character development while carrying the plot forward: there is a great deal that I would like to learn about this world, its rich background and history, and I more than look forward to learning more with the next books in the series. This first installment proved to be a very powerful “hook” for an equally strong story I can’t wait to see where it will lead me…
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SpaceandSorcery | 33 other reviews | Jun 20, 2024 |



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