Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft — Review

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft


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The first book in the stunning and strange debut fantasy series that’s receiving major praise from some of fantasy’s biggest authors such as Mark Lawrence and Django Wexler.

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, assassins, 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.

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Review: 5 Stars

When I had first heard about Senlin Ascends it didn’t really sound like my type of fantasy read. Recently I was looking for upcoming fantasy books and I saw that many of my trusted blogger friends were really excited for the fourth book in this series, so I decided to take a second look at Senlin Ascends. I started to look through the Goodreads reviews and they made this book sound so incredible. So when I was offered the opportunity to get review copies of the entire series from Orbit so that I can review the fourth book when it comes out this fall I leaped at the opportunity. I was really excited to read Senlin Ascends, so clearly my expectations were pretty high, but I’m thrilled to share that I loved every minute of this book.

I have a really hard time with slow beginnings, but luckily Senlin Ascends took off right away. I was quickly sucked in and found that the plot kept me reading. Senlin loses his wife on their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel and his quest to find her is the driving force behind the plot. He quickly learns that the tower has a very dark side to it and his many missteps kept me captivated. We follow Senlin on one adventure after another as he tries to navigate his way up the ringdoms of the tower to find his wife.

While Senlin’s brains and determination make for an excellent main character, I really loved all of the side characters as well. Senlin meets many different people on his journey and they are each incredibly well developed and they each add a lot to the story. Each character is full of personality and life, it is rare to see great character development in more than just the main character, but all of the side characters as well. Senlin Ascends has a decent pace and is full of adventure, but Josiah Bancroft doesn’t skimp on the character development. We get the back stories of many side characters and learn how they all have suffered because of the tower.

While in the beginning of the story it feels like no one can be trusted as Senlin is robbed, back-stabbed and betrayed many times. But the incredible part of this story is that despite all of that Senlin manages to forge friendships with others who have been taken advantage of at the tower and because of those friendships he is able to succeed. These relationships are one of my favorite aspects of the story as I became emotionally invested in the plight of each side character. There were some moments that truly broke my heart as I watched characters suffer, and many more moments where I was so excited rooting for them.

I can’t write this review without mentioning the world building. Everything is so vividly described that I felt as if I was watching a movie. Each level of the tower is so different and filled with both horrors and wonders. The whole story and world felt unique and unlike anything I could have expected. The writing is well paced and never got bogged down with unnecessary descriptions. The plot moved at a great pace, just when I felt like the story was starting to hit a lull it would pick up again.

I am so grateful that I gave this book a second look and trusted the incredible reviews. Senlin Ascends is filled with unforgettable characters who are down on their luck and willing to do anything for those that they love. I loved all the friendships Senlin forged along the way in a place where it is so hard to trust anyone. I was truly amazed with how all of the plot lines came together at the end and while the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger I can’t wait to pick up the next book in the series. If you are looking for a really unique fantasy read filled with adventure you really should pick this book up.

Thank you Orbit for sending me a review copy.

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