Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) – Josiah Bancroft

5 star
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 448
Release Date: January 16, 2018

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.

Senlin Ascends is an absolute jem of a novel. Steam punk fantasy combined with darker tones create a magical atmosphere on the surface with something more sinister lurking beneath.

Senlin Ascends begins as a lighthearted adventure as Senlin and his wife, Marya, arrive at The Tower of Babel. From the opening chapter, Bancroft makes it clear to the reader that Senlin and Marya are two very different people in terms of personality and temperament. Thus, begins the theme of discovery throughout the novel. Senlin and Marya are separated quickly, so the reader is left to discover Marya and her relationship to Senlin through Senlin’s thoughts and feelings. By the end of the novel, the reader still doesn’t have a clear picture of who Marya is though I did enjoy the plentiful flashbacks that are featured.

As Senlin progresses through his mission, he begins to discover the ways in which people are multifaceted. In order to adapt and to move forward, Senlin must discover who is he as an individual and how he can evolve. Senlin’s character arc is a fascinating one. He’s the driving force of the novel and without him being such a compelling, relatable character, Senlin Ascends wouldn’t work as well as it does.

As much as Senlin Ascends is a character driven novel, it’s steeped in the intricacies that is the tower itself. There are many mysteries hidden within as Senlin makes his way through the ringdoms that are only hinted at vaguely. These tiny hints had me perk up in my seat every time one was mentioned because the tower is so damn interesting. I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel to learn more about it.

Overall, Senlin Ascends is probably one the best books I’ve read so far this year. It’s full of great character work, mysteries, and action. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy novel with compelling characters, Senlin Ascends is for you!


Have you read Senlin Ascends? What did you think? If not, will you be picking up Selin Ascends?



10 thoughts on “Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) – Josiah Bancroft

  1. Hating myself for not having read this already! You are making me want to purchase a copy right this instant! Hope the sequel will be just as good for as the first one for you. 😀 Awesome review, Nadine!

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