Review: Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) by Josiah Bancroft

May 14, 2018
 Senlin Ascends, (The Books of Babel #1), Josiah Bancroft, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Orbit on January 16, 2018
Format Read: Paperback Edition (448 pages)
Genre: Sci-fi/ Fantasy/ Steam Punk
Series: Book One of The Books of Babel
Source: Purchased
Senlin Ascends
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.

The Tower of Babel used as a tangible place where conflict danger and personalities clash sounds not only fascinating but epic. This will be a refreshing take on a hero's journey and I'm here for it.


 Content Warning: Violence, Physical Abuse, Slavery


I thought I would absolutely love this book because I am a big fan of science fiction featuring an epic adventure. Unfortunately Thomas's journey to find his wife involved too much meandering and not enough plot. Marya, Thomas's wife, is described and categorized through the eyes of Thomas because she quickly disappears. When Thomas realizes he must find his wife his journey up the Tower of Babel features strange encounters and devices but his slow trek didn't involve much happening. The Tower of Babel itself was fascinating, I'm sure more and more secrets about how it runs will be revealed in the series. But there was not enough unraveling of the mystery to hook me and make me care about what happens next.
"Love as the poets so often painted it, was just bald lust wearing a pompous wig. He believed true love was more like an education: It was deep and subtle and never complete."
The writing was great, but descriptions of the Tower and other side characters took up most of the book. I wanted more to happen and less to be explained. Also the female characters were all described through Thomas and none of them despite great strength and skill were able to do much without the assistance of a man. The push and pull of the Tower kept me wondering what was next. The villains of the Tower slowly reveal themselves and are genuinely scary and uncaring. But none of the characters made me genuinely care what happened to them.
"The Tower sucks our lives and gives us only a little diversion and a little death. Do not accept a little death! Demand a great, booming demise!"
There was humor, plot twists, and side characters I did enjoy. Overall however I felt like getting through this book was more of a chore than a source of entertainment. Fans of steampunk will find a lot of devices and fantasy elements to love. Many other readers have fallen in love with this series, but I couldn't find the magic while reading.

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy science fiction epics
- can handle slow burn mysteries
- enjoy steampunk elements in their fantasy


Josiah Bancroft started writing novels when he was twelve, and by the time he finished his first, he was an addict. Eventually, the writing of Senlin Ascends began, a fantasy adventure, not so unlike the stories that got him addicted to words in the first place. He wanted to do for others what his favorite writers had done for him: namely, to pick them up and to carry them to a wonderful and perilous world that is spinning very fast. If he’s done that with this book, then he’s happy.

Josiah lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sharon, and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chaplin.


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