Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

This is, by far(!), the most original story I’ve read in ages.

It’s amazing – so brilliantly written, so unique – it’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy meets a steampunk version of The Hobbit.

In this first book in the series, we meet Thomas Senlin and his new wife, who are going on their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel. The Tower is immense. More levels – or ringdoms, as they are called – than you can see with the naked eye from the ground, stretching forever until it disappears into the clouds. A mecca of technology, commerce, culture, and society.

Senlin and his wife only plan to have a brief stay at the tower, visiting the Baths on the second floor. But everything is turned on it’s head when Senlin’s wife disappears in the ever-changing markets outside soon after they arrive.

So – on a quest to find his missing wife – Senlin ascends the Tower.

Bancroft is one of those success stories you hear about of an indie author who wrote something brilliant and got picked up by a publisher. And his writing is truly brilliant. He has a way to form sentences, to put a spin on things with delicate, fun and playful words, and you’re just enthralled straight away. (Honestly, it’s the kind of writing that makes you hate your own a little bit – it’s just so perfect).

And the story is captivating. Senlin is a headmaster of a faraway school, and a shy and nervous fellow. Naively he trusts many of the people he meets on his journey up the tower, but of course liars and deceit is plentiful among the many ringdoms. Senlin’s journey, both physically and mentally as he learns to adapt to the harsh environment he finds himself caught in, is constantly thrilling.

Bancroft truly has a way with words that could make a thesaurus envious, but if I had to find a weak point with this novel, it would be that that’s not always a good thing. It can occasionally be a tad tiring. Sometimes you just want a simple piece of candy, not a whole chocolate fountain, get what I mean? Beautifully crafted and well-worded phrases can only stand out if they’re spread among other, not so beautiful phrases.

But again, this is the most brilliant, original, well-craft piece of fiction I’ve read in years. Five stars – no – ten stars! Maximum stars! I would recommend this to anyone who want a different kind of steampunk/fantasy book.

Oh, and there’s like four books in the series. I’m super excited.

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