- Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1).
- Josiah Bancroft.
- 432 pages.
- Fantasy / Steampunk / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.
Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants.
Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.
This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Thomas Senlin, the main character in Senlin Ascends isn’t a man of action nor is he your stereotypical muscle-bound hero. He’s a bookish and prudish sort of person with a timid and mild-mannered personality. He’s the headmaster and only teacher at the school in the small fishing village of Isaugh where he resides.
Thomas’s wife is Marya, they are newlywed and have decided to take their honeymoon in the fabled Tower of Babel. After the train journey that takes them from their home in Isaugh, whilst perusing the outlying market and before they even have a chance to set foot in the Tower Senlin loses his wife amongst the crowds of people. And in a nutshell that’s it, the story of Senlin Ascends, he loses his wife and has to traverse and search the fabled Tower of Babel to try and find her. On the face of it, it’s a very simple premise but Senlin Ascends is a beguiling read and that perceived initial simplicity over the premise soon gives way to a story that is wholly imaginative.
Just like Thomas Senlin, the main character isn’t a man of action neither is Senlin Ascends an action-oriented read. However, there is enough action to satisfy any cravings you will have and what action that is included is exciting, adds to the overall story and the final fifty pages (or so) certainly ramp up the action making for an exhilarating finale. Senlin Ascends is an exploration of character with Bancroft creating a character-driven opus that is filled with adventure, wondrous escapades and encapsulates a remarkable story.
What Senlin Ascends is, is an adventure and an exploration of character with Bancroft creating a character-driven opus that is filled with many wondrous escapades.
As the reader, we get to see first hand the effects that losing his wife, the quest to find her and the Tower itself have on Senlin and witness his gradual transformation from who he was at the start of the book to who he becomes by the end. It’s a huge transformation predominantly born out of the necessity to adapt, endure and survive in the Tower. At the core, he is still recognisable as the same Thomas Senlin who started the book, the reserved headmaster from Isaugh but come to the final page the Tower has inexplicably changed him and he is far more adventurous and daring with his goal never faltering and that is to find and rescue his wife, Marya.
Senlin Ascends is the journey of one man, Thomas Senlin but as he searches the Tower in order to find Marya he meets an eclectic array of nefarious villain and characters who either help or hinder him in his quest to find his missing bride. I found these characters to be great additions to the story with all of them having a role to play in Senlin’s tale. There are flashbacks included for Senlin, Marya and some of the other characters, namely those who aid Senlin and they often have an emotional pull to them helping to invest you further in the characters and their predicaments.
Senlin Ascends has elements of steampunk-infused with the fantasy and the Tower of Babel is a tremendously ingenious creation. The Tower itself reaches into the sky and is comprised of various ringdoms (levels). They are called ringdoms as each different level is akin to a separate kingdom offering its own unique setting. We only get to see a few of the ringdoms during Senlin Ascends but as a destination for the story, each is wonderfully realised by Bancroft, distinct and all offer Senlin completely different experiences and challenges that he must overcome.
Senlin Ascends is split into three parts, for the first two at the start of each chapter there is a small insight from a volume of the ‘Everyman’s Guide to the Tower of Babel‘ the same guide which Senlin carries around the Tower during the course of the book before switching to insights from ‘Every Man’s Tower, One Man’s Travails‘ which is a journal written by Senlin, himself. Though they are only brief, I really enjoyed these little anecdotes, wise words and nuggets of information on the Tower and its ways and found them to be a great and often whimsical addition to the book.
Some of you may well scoff at both the above point and at me for mentioning something so small and trivial in a review, but! It’s often the little things and the added attention to detail that they show on the part of the author that adds up making something that is already special (which Senlin Ascends is) extra special.
I really liked the writing style employed by Bancroft. He writes with a poetic styling that captivates luring you into his tale from the start. Likewise, Senlin himself with his unassuming demeanour is from the get-go a character that you get behind and root for.
Bancroft has an extraordinary imagination and with Senlin Ascends he has created an enchanting read with an ending that offers up an array of incredible possibilities for the sequel which I can’t wait to read!
If I had to describe Senlin Ascends in only one word that word would be: exceptional.
Purchase Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1).
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