Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Years ago, after watching a few of my favorite BookTubers rave about The Books of Babel, I scurried out and bought the first three books in the series.
I did this, of course, without even reading this first book. Why did I buy all three of them without knowing if I would even like it, you may wonder?
At that time, there were only three published so far, but you better believe your sweet rump that I then bought the fourth book upon its release, again without starting the series.
Last year I began a TBR-Haul Project, where I go back through my Reading Journals, and select one or two books that I hauled for each month and read them.
Senlin Ascends is the 17th-selection for that project. I hauled this book, and the next two, in February of 2019. I’d say it’s about time I got around to them.
I’m happy to report, this was absolutely amazing. I was blown away by how creative the world is, not to mention the overall story and characters.
I immediately picked up the second book, The Arm of the Sphinx, upon completion of this one and am now fully immersed in this series, fangirling all the way.
If you aren’t aware, this is an Epic Fantasy series, with some light steampunk elements. The world-building is very unique. I would classify it as a slow burn story, but it’s so rich and detailed that it makes sense that way.
We follow Thomas Senlin, a recently married headmaster, who takes his new bride on a honeymoon to the Tower a Babel. They’ve barely exited the train when Thomas and Marya, his wife, are separated in a busy marketplace.
No matter what tactic he takes, Senlin is unsuccessful in finding her in the market, but he can’t give up. He doesn’t care how long it takes, he is determined to find her. There’s no other choice. He will not leave the Tower without her.
And thus it begins…
Y’all, this made me anxious from the start. About 40-pages in and it was already making me sweat. The Skirts, which is what the outside level where the market is located is called, was giving me sort of Goblin Market vibes.
It was all very sinister, without knowing why I was feeling that way. There was just this feeling of dread and wickedness exuding out of it. Senlin had zero people he could trust to help him in his search. No where to turn. It was a very desperate feeling.
As he entered the Tower and began to progress through the ringdoms, circumstances do not get any easier. In fact, they get progressively more dangerous.
Along the way, Senlin does discover tiny clues as to where the missing Marya may be, but how to get there? Perhaps, if the once innocent headmaster transforms himself into a criminal mastermind, he’ll be able to reach her.
I love how Bancroft began to reveal the truth of the Tower itself. It’s certainly not at all the gleaming, idealized vacation spot that Senlin expected after reading his Everyman’s Guide to the Tower.
I also really enjoyed all the characters we meet along the way, the ones Senlin aligns himself with and the ones that are against him. Everyone is out for their own interests. It’s a dangerous place.
A bit Alice in Wonderland mixed with Hotel California, ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’
I’m super stoked to be continuing on with this series. We learn a lot about the Tower and how it functions in this one, but there are still SO MANY mysteries.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how this progresses and ultimately wraps up!
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