Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft – book review (spoilers)

Okay – so I’ve finished the second book of The Books of Babel series.

Arm of the Sphinx starts not long after the dramatic ending of Senlin Ascends, and now that Senlin has escaped the Tower of Babel, with his group of friends, he needs to find the Ringdom of Pelphia – where his wife, Marya, may or may not be.

So, what is going on? And how good is book two of the series? (Please beware there are spoilers in this review.)

‘His group of friends’ are those we met in Senlin Ascends. We have the lovely Edith Winters, Adamos and his sister Voleta, and Iren.

This unlikely quintet make a rather good team, well, as good a team as possible considering they are trying to be ethical sky-pirates!

And so the adventure starts – and we visit some new places in the tower – the Golden Zoo, the home of the Sphinx, and even a drive to the very top of the tower itself.

These are interesting locations. At first, however, I was little worried. Much of the plot in Senlin Ascends revolved around trying to find Marya. Travelling up through the floors added to the mystery. As did a portrait heist.

Where could the story of Arm of the Sphinx take us when we consider that;

– Our protagonists are no longer inside the tower.

– We are getting a mean crumb-vision version of Marya from the mind of Senlin.

– It dawns on us that perhaps Marya is no longer the sole owner of Senlin’s heart?

At first glance it may seem that the story is very different from its predecessor, however, everything that I enjoyed about Senlin Ascends is still tangible. The mystery of Marya’s whereabouts is still there, but there are new questions to unravel. What is the tower? Why is it there? Who are the Hods? And more importantly who is the Sphinx and why is Edith so afraid?

Friendship is a key theme. Loyalty. Doing what is right. Freedom, and the quest for scientific advancement. Greed and chaos and living in a world where a terrible status quo suits those who have the power to change it. It moves away from one man’s quest to find his wife and into something more thoughtful.

The humour is still here too. A crumb addled Senlin is very pitiful, to be sure. Especially when his imaginary wife is pouring paint everywhere and sticking her tongue out at Edith.

And, if you didn’t already know, crumb rehab is terrifying – unless you are Senlin, and then it is hysterical. Senlin in the library was my favourite part of the book!

And oh, the ending. What is the truth behind the scene we had with Marya? The Sphinx has been keeping secrets from Senlin about the location of his wife and what has happened to her. This can’t be kept secret for much longer, surely…

In conclusion, I really enjoyed Arm of the Sphinx and am very intrigued to find out what happens in The Hod King. Senlin may be ‘clean’ but his heart is torn. What will happen when he finds his wife?? I can’t wait to find out!

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