Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends.jpg

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.

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Josiah Bancroft

Paperback, 389 pages

Published January 16th 2018

Publishing House: Orbit 

Original Title

Senlin Ascends

ISBN: 0316517917 (ISBN13: 9780316517911)

Edition Language



The Books of Babel #1

Literary Awards

Bookworm Best Award for Best Debut (2014)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2018)

My Review

Truly amazing storytelling!

As you begin your reading journey of Senlin Ascends you will quickly learn that the Tower of Babel is as amazingly imagined a superb feat of engineering as Bancroft's skillful writing is an exposé of masterfully executed storytelling-craft and prose. 

Armed with his 'Everyman's Guide to...' and his newlywed wife Marya, Senlin takes a long journey by train to spend the honeymoon in the Tower of Babel. Immediately the reader is introduced to the echoing steampunk vibe imbued by the railway system and the description of surroundings.

Senlin, a school headmaster, is the quintessential do it by the book, philosophical innocent human being, naive to what is to come, a non-street smart lovable creature you can't stop but affectionately smirk at and fall for as a character. Marya, on the other hand, seems to have a slight draw to the excitement, the unplanned and the moment. A positive flaw that will set the tone for the rest of the novel, as her role played in the story is rather short, yet she remains the beacon of all of Senlin's doing. 

As the hustle and bustle await the couple, they are overwhelmed by the sheer busyness of the area around the tower. They make their way through market streets filled with merchants, vendors, shoppers, pickpockets, and visitors to reach the Tower of Babel. But Senlin and Marya become separated in a split second amidst all of it. On top of that, his luggage gets stolen shortly after. How about a sore start to a honeymoon!

Senlin's awkwardness with new and unfamiliar situations will be tested right from the get-go. He can't find his wife at the market and has asked any and all in his path if they have seen her. He must make the difficult decision to go on without her in hopes to find her later on.

The Tower of Babel is huge and reminds of the famous picture by Peter Bruegel of the tower. As reading this novel, my impression is that the Ringdom shaped building is filled with worlds of their own within. There are rules that guide each level and one has to accomplish tasks to ascend to the top. With steampunk airships moored, theater and art accentuated all throughout, the worldbuilding arcs with the plot the further one reads on. 


Senlin's journey brings him into situations he'd never dreamed off. He realizes that his conception of what he had learned about the Tower prior were severe mistruths. Challenges await and allure in misdirections as he tries to find his wife in corners of secrets kept and betrayals delt. 

Time passes, the days have turned to weeks and into months. Senlin has made friends and foes along his slow and painful ascend to find Marya. Some of the characters he met were backstabbers and some from high places. Some were simply survivors or thrill seekers, and some were just like him...LOST, derailed from their original visit. Some are to stay. 

To the joy of the reader, it comes without saying that adventure, suspense, philosophical as well as hopeless moments simmer and permeate to create an amazing plot in this novel. It is an adventure for the mind through amazing storytelling that captures an adult's heart like a water puddle does a toddler. Simply addicting, you can't stop reading (or jumping in the puddle).

Senlin's character transforms throughout. By the end of this book, he is not the same person that went on his honeymoon a long time ago. He has indeed escaped death, been lost and imprisoned, made a fool, stirred trouble, rescued and plotted against others in teamwork or alone, and he has become an adventurer! 


Bancroft's voice is inviting and his talent to create something freshly amazing, new and unique with this novel is superb. I am at awe. I am that toddler. 

I absolutely loved this novel. It is the best book I have read in a sense that it will stay with me for a long time. Its enjoyment factor for me was sky-high!

Let's say you are not a fantasy reader perhaps, but you have read my review to this point, then I'd love to urge you to give this book a try. The reason is, it feels almost historical and it is very entertaining. Very! It is clean, good-natured, imaginative and captivating. Don't think of gruesome battles, swords clanking or other such notions. Expect an immersive world full of surprises and excellent storytelling. 

I was fortunate to have the novel in print at hand as well as the audio version and I began with the audiobook while painting baseboards (I don't waste time not reading, haha) and it had me hooked within minutes. The audio was great, the novel flows amazingly well to read and it simply is wonderful. 

This book goes down as an all-time favorite of mine, and I can't wait to read the next novel. 

Happy Reading :)