Title: Senlin Ascends Series: Books of Babel #1
Release Date: February 27, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through slums and theaters, prisons and ballrooms. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find Marya, Senlin will have to do more than survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.
Add to Goodreads
*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
Senlin Ascends is the first book in the Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft.
Josiah Bancroft creates a dangerous and interesting world in Senlin Ascends with a strong steampunk feel 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.
I really enjoyed reading this story. 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.
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. 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 part 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 his many derailments from his goal. I also enjoyed how he took his experience as headmaster and applied it to new tasks.
Overall, 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 4.5 stars for a likable hero, excellent descriptions, and freshness. I have never reading anything like it. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.