SENLIN ASCENDS is #1 in the Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft.
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.
Jen’s Review of SENLIN ASCENDS
I read Senlin Ascends because the author asked me to write a review. The steampunk setting appealed to me. I’m glad I accepted his request, because I enjoyed the book.
This review first appeared on my old blog Books That Hook. I am updating and expanding on that review.
Although I received a free copy for review purposes, my opinions are my own.
Quick Review: Thrilling plot, great atmosphere, excellent character development. A fresh and inventive adventure.
Josiah Bancroft creates a dangerous and interesting world in Senlin Ascends with a strong steampunk feel. The world is brought to life with airships, clockwork mechanisms, and old-style fashion. The main character, Thomas Senlin, travels with his new bride to see a place he dreamed of: The Tower of Babel. He finds it is nothing like he romanticized it to be like. The people there are ruthless and, in many cases, disturbed. Before they even get to the tower, Thomas and his wife get separated. The rest of the novel consists of Thomas’ wild adventure traveling up the tower to try to find his wife.
You really need to have an open mind to read Senlin Ascends because some of the scenarios are so wild that you might find it difficult to suspend disbelief. I didn’t have this problem, but I can imagine how some people might have a difficult time accepting just how wild and crazy the tower is.
Another issue that is likely to upset some readers is that it is a To Be Continued story. The main plot line is not resolved in this book. If you hate cliffhangers, you might not want to read this book unless you have the second one on hand to go straight into reading.
The pacing of the story is good in most places. Even when it seems that Senlin has lost sight of his goal, he gets back on track. There were a few parts of the book that I thought could have been moved along faster, such as when he was working as the port master. The diary entries were a great way to summarize, but I think they could have spanned more time faster. Also, when he was in Baths, he spent a long time drinking and hanging out with his friend. I think some of this could have been skipped or summarized to get him to the upcoming conflict sooner.
The best aspect of Senlin Ascends is the character development of Senlin. He has to look inside himself to overcome his shortcomings. He grows as a person, despite many derailments from his goal. I enjoyed how he took his experience as headmaster and applied it to new tasks.
I especially liked the vivid descriptions with great similes, such as “the Tower of Babel rose like a tusk from the jaw of the Earth (p.1).” The author provided all the details needed to visualize the Tower and the surrounding area.
There isn’t much worldbuilding beyond their hometown and the area where the tower is located, but I suppose it’s not necessary since they don’t venture to other locations.
Normally, I like prose that is straightforward and less descriptive. But, in Senlin Ascends, I didn’t feel like the author was adding words just to show off or bogging down the story with unnecessary details. Every word was carefully chosen and worked toward creating a picture for every scene and character in the reader’s mind.
Do I Recommend?
I really enjoyed reading this story. I strongly recommend Senlin Ascends to readers who are looking for something different and are prepared to enter a twisted and wildly creative new world. I give Senlin Ascends 4 stars. If it weren’t for the lagginess in some places, this would be a five-star book for me. It has a likable hero readers can cheer on, beautiful prose, vivid settings, and originality. I have never reading anything like it. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (B)
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