Book Review – Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft (spoiler-free)

What a wonderfully eccentric book.

It’s not my usual fantasy fare. On first glance it seemed too modern, too steampunk-esque, the main character is a prudish school teacher who looses his wife.

The blurb didn’t overly sell it, I have to be honest. However, a discord group I am a part of decided to read it for their book club and so I thought I’d give it a go.

So I started and that rare thing happened… I couldn’t stop reading. The story reeled me in and didn’t let me go. Like Tom Senlin, our protagonist, I was thrown in at the deep end and kept swimming.

Suddenly the premise intrigued me. Not only was the mystery of Marya’s whereabouts in my mind, but also the mystery of the tower itself. The Tower of Babel, initially believed to be a revered and fantastic place to visit, suddenly becomes sinister and not at all what the guidebook has set out.

Thomas Senlin is a great protagonist to view the tower with. Completely won over by propaganda, he’s initially in awe of it. This slowly slips away and the dirt and treachery and violence starts to show.

He is naive, yes, sometimes I wanted to shake him, but he is a good person, something that is essential when viewing a place that is rotten to the core.

I won’t go into any spoilers, but my favourite aspect of the tower is that each level has a different theme. This gave an added layer of mystery and excitement and I was always eager to see what Senlin would encounter as he made his way up through the levels.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. Quirky, unexpected, and very well written – it was a brilliant read – and I’ve already gone on ahead and started The Arm of the Sphinx which is the second book in the quartet.

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