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Senlin Ascends

(The Books of Babel #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  24,757 ratings  ·  3,733 reviews
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-man
Paperback, 448 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Orbit (first published February 18th 2013)
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Nathan Chattaway The first novel to pay tribute to the tallest tower of the ancient world cannot be expected to be anything less than magnificently tall. It must not s…moreThe first novel to pay tribute to the tallest tower of the ancient world cannot be expected to be anything less than magnificently tall. It must not submit to any bookshelf's attempt to contain it.(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  24,757 ratings  ·  3,733 reviews

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Emily May
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2016
We MUST talk about this hidden indie treasure.

Over the years, I have read a lot of books. I've picked my way through the so-called "Classics", got lost in Fantasy and Science-Fiction, been taken to other times by Historical Fiction, stayed up late to find out the answers in the latest Psychological Thriller, fallen in love with Romance, and rode the wave of every YA trend. And yet, I have never read a book like this one.

Requests for indie/self-pub reviews come to me all the time. I usually take
Mark Lawrence
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. That was unexpected!

Senlin Ascends is one of the best reads I've had in ages. I decided to read it because one of the bloggers judging in my self-published fantasy contest had a very difficult time choosing between this title and another for the best of his bunch of 30 novels. In the end he went for the other book, which left me thinking that it was harsh luck to miss out by such a fine margin to a very different kind of story.

Anyway, I was dragged in and didn't escape until I'd finished t
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buddy read with my awesome friend: Melanie

4.5/5 Stars

If you need extra proof that a self-published fantasy can be on par/superior compared to traditionally published fantasy books, Senlin Ascends is it.

Relatively, not a lot of readers will spend their time reading self-published fantasy books. It’s the harsh truth; the stigma that existed in self-published fantasy—bad cover art, cliché stories, typos, and grammatical errors—were there for valid reasons. Even to this day, it’s still easy to find

Buddy Read with Petrik

This highly praised indie book series has recently been picked up by Orbit! After that news, and seeing the first two beautifully sitting on my shelf for far too long, I decided I wanted to experience this self published series before the year was over, but now I just want all the books immediately, because Senlin Ascends is a literary masterpiece.

“The Tower of Babel is most famous for the silk fineries and marvelous airships it produces, but visitors will discov
James Tivendale
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: freecopy, fantasy
Josiah Bancroft's debut novel is a huge deal in the world of fantasy fiction right now. I truly regret being late to the party but can safely say the hype is well deserved. Seeing only unanimously positive reviews from my blogging peers, I had to check out this 2016 #SPFBO's entrant as soon as I could.

Thomas Senlin planned a seemingly perfect honeymoon at the magnificent, and world renowned Tower of Babel. Each level of the tower is a Ringdom- cities with different characteristics and unique a
This was one of the most lovely books I almost didn't finish. To certain library books I must ask certain questions: are they worth overdue fines? Perhaps more importantly, are they worth negative karma when late? To both of these questions, Senlin Ascends is an empathetic 'no.' And yet, on the strength of dear Milda's love for the tale and her encouragement, I find myself disregarding my earlier decision to return it.

"You have no idea what the Tower will turn you into!" Tarrou laughed and swatt
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I'm not sure if this was the hype of the book, my mood, or the book itself. I'm going to to with my mood as I found a lot of the book very good. I did take a little bit to get into it but that was because of reading other books I do believe.

So here I am in the most unpopular opinion world. I do have some friends that gave it 2 and 3 stars but for the most part it's 4 and 5. I feel left out. I am going to revisit this book a little later to make sure it wasn't my mood because like I said before,
Jeffrey Keeten
”The handkerchief is the universal utensil of the seasoned traveler. It can be a sanitizing device, a seat cover, a dust mask, a garrote, a bandage, a gag, or a white flag. One may feel well-prepared with nothing but a pocket square.”
--Everyman’s Guide to the Tower of Babel--

Tom Senlin has dreamed about travelling to see the Tower of Babel, a marvel of the universe, for a long, long time. He is a headmaster and teacher, and so he is not a rich man and must rely upon the age old habit of saving h
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
oh, dont mind me. i will just be over here, picking my jaw up from off the floor.

whoa, this book is W I L D. if i am ever stranded on a deserted island, i want senlin with me. he goes from reserved headmaster to a total savage in no time. talk about a glow up! i really cant wait to read the second book to see what he does next.

also, you know the age old question, 'if you could live in any fictional world, which one would it be?' its definitely this one. move over hogwarts, because the tower of
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
I was so excited to get to this book because everyone I follow had given it 5 stars.
Sadly for me, it was a huge let down.

I'm not a fan of the "woman in the fridge" trope.
The wife of the main character (much younger wife who used to be his student shall I add...) goes missing as soon as they make it to the Towel of Babel on their honeymoon. He then proceeds to look for her and has to grow as a person for the rest of the series.

I did like how unique the second level was. Terrifying but interestin
William Gwynne
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible, fantasy, reviewed
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

“I’m suspicious of people who are certain”

When starting Senlin Ascends, I had no idea what to expect, and had not checked out what the story was about at all. I read it purely off of hearing consistently great things about it, and the fact that it was on my Audible library. I don’t usually do this, as I have a great list to read, and want to cherry pick the best suited to
Luna. ✨
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great-books, fantasy

“I am the riddle in the mouth of the Sphinx. I am the slaver that chews the living chain. I am the farmer of dead seeds, the filler of holes. Who am I?”

Buddy read with this whacky squad - Dewi, Chumlee, Mantis Shrimp and Choko.

Let me just start by saying there's a lot of HYPE around how good this book is and I must say I fell victim to the HYPE and loved every second of it. Don't hate me because I'm hypey.
This book was whacky, fun, amazing and absolutely wonderful . I am
Chelsea Humphrey
Take all of my money, Mr. Bancroft, because I need the rest of this series NOW.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hype is a bad thing. It raises expectations and sets the bar high so there is only one possible outcome; it gives the book a polarizing effect.

I wanted to find out is the hype around this book justified and when I was done reading it there was only one answer: I don't know.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the book (hence the four stars) but I don't think of it as one the best I've read or that was amazing as most of the reviews show. But it is certainly different. In a good way.

The story begins with
ELLIAS (elliasreads)
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-books, i-own
This book was utterly chaotic and it was wonderful. This was like the pounding and rushing sensation after the fall of a rollercoaster but right before it reaches that highest peak, before dropping down again.

It was dizzyingly drastic and delightful. I loved the progress of this book; the main character, Thomas Senlin, literally and figuratively, ascends into a hero we all root and empathize with. This was no 'mary sue' or 'the chosen one' moment or story. Senlin is flawed, naive, and f
Charlotte May
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: epic-fantasy
"We have society, but we are alone. We have light, but we have no sun. The Tower sucks our lives and gives us only a little diversion and a little death."

Loved this!

A truly fantastic and original fantasy! Thomas Senlin is newly married and heading on his honeymoon to the Tower of Babel, a tower with more levels than anyone really can be sure of. The tower is famous in its mystery, and everyone wants to go there.

However, shortly after arriving, Senlin and his wife become separated. They were su
Petros Triantafyllou
When I first laid eyes on this book, I felt that it isn't my sort of thing. I knew that I wouldn't like it.
When I witnessed all the recent hype about it, I thought that it would be short lived. I knew that I wouldn't like it.
When I was given the first book, I felt compelled to read it, but still, I was sure that I wouldn't like it.
I liked it...

Senlin and Marya are newlyweds on their honeymoon. What better destination could they chose than the Tower of Babel; an immense building of unknown high,
Mayim de Vries
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think one needs to be in a mood for something a tad bizarre in order to fully enjoy this quirky novel. Like: you agree to read a book but it turns out that it is an out loud reading. And you must be dressed up (pirate’s uniform is provided). And then if you do not read it, somebody you do not know but surely could befriend - dies. Yes, you can withdraw but we are putting a tattoo on your forehead in such an unfortunate case (no, you cannot choose the pattern).

This is precisely what happens to
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah yes, the book that began my love of indie writing – I read this book a long time ago before I really had any kind of reviewing style. It was a short paragraph about me ranting “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING, BUY IT”. So, I’m redoing the review to give it the fleshed out review it deserves!

Senlin and his new wife are going on a honeymoon, he takes her to the Tower of Babel which is a very popular tourist spot. The pedestrian traffic around the Tower is immense, and so is the Tower itself. It would
Paul O’Neill
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You need to read this! Don't read the blurb, dive in blind (which is the best way to read any book).

This is one surprisingly awesome adventure through an entirely original world. It is hard to compare it. I'd describe it as a fantasy, high speed thriller. Also made me think of charlie and the chocolate factory for some reason.

I will definitely pick up book two soon and this author deserves all the props for writing one of the best books I've read this year.
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
· Well Well Well This Didn't Go Quite As Planned Surprise Surprise Buddy Read (WWWTDGQAPSSBR™) with My Dearest of Wives, The Ex Noob, The New Noob and The Girl with the Mostest Awesomest Name Ever ·

💀 DNF at 69%. 256 pages that felt like 10,589. Go me.

Actual rating: 2.5 stars. Yeah, I'm generous like that.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I DNFed read this one wrong.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that this overhyped book is one glorious masterpiece of originality and creativity (view spoiler)
“Up is not at all a straightforward direction.”

A book like “Senlin Ascends” is tricky to describe: it’s speculative fiction that mashes together historical fiction, urban fantasy and steampunk-y sci-fi in a rather dizzying way. It’s also tricky to review, because the least you know about it, the more enjoyable it is! But let me try to tell you about it as coyly as possible, so that you still enjoy every flipping of its pages.

Thomas Senlin is the headmaster of a school, in a small seaside town i
Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews
Mar 05, 2022 rated it really liked it
A fun journey in a unique fantasy world

Senlin Ascends is a fascinating book that really grips you from the start, especially if you are into fantasy books already due to it's unique spin on fantasy. This book is ultimately about a man moving up incredibly unique floors in a fantastical tower. It has an episodic feel to it, which works in it's benefit unlike some other fantasy books that attempt the same.

I'm held off on giving 5 stars because I thought the ending was pretty weak, but overall I wo
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's a lot to love in this book. I was quite on the edge giving this a chance when I first picked it up, but the whole damn idea of having a full adventure in the mythical Tower of Babylon just struck all my fancies at once. I remember Ted Chiang's short story about the Tower of Babylon so fondly... I just had to imagine it taken as a full novel.

So how did this pan out? Wonderfully! Maybe not the same level as Chiang, but when dealing with a tower that not even airships can reach the top leve
I just bought the first three books in this series.

Have I even read the first one?

Do I know if I will love it?

Then why buy them all immediately, you ask?

Fairly confident with this purchase though...
Elle (ellexamines)
This book was so much fun. Following a normally shy teacher who ascends a mysterious and mythic tower in search of his missing wife, Senlin Ascends brings both the intrigue and the magic to the table.

Senlin Ascends follows schoolmaster Thomas Senlin as he looks for his wife, lost on a vacation to the Tower. As he attempts to look for her up the first six levels of the tower, he meets a large array of strange characters… and perhaps learns a little courage and determination, along the way.

This b
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
4ish stars.

There comes a point after reading a certain number of "magic school" or "sword and sorcery" novels, when it can be hard to believe that there are any stories left that haven't already been told three or four times. Luckily there are still books like this one that are just familiar enough to be recognizable, but are otherwise in a league of their own. It's sort of like a steampunk adventure version of Breaking Bad meets The Hobbit? Try telling me you've already read that one.

It's almo
Anthony Ryan
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Josiah Bancroft’s narrative of the travails suffered by stiff-backed headmaster Thomas Senlin as he ascends the fabled Tower of Babel in search of his lost wife is truly a box of delights. Bancroft displays a Dickens-like gift for characterisation in the unique and memorable cast populating a world as absurd as it is frightening. The setting mixes occasional almost dreamlike weirdness reminiscent of both Lewis Carol and Douglas Adams with a hard-edged sense of omnipresent danger. As he climbs ev ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, steam-punk
*** 4.35 ***

A buddy read with my friends @ BB&B! Because we love great writing!!!

What a great find! When I decided to join on the buddy read for this book, I had only seen the beautiful cover - I miss this type of art on the currently publishing trends .. I had no idea what the book is about and from the name surmised that it must be about the strife of humanity to reach g-d like power. So, being a reader who is up for anything, I thought it looked interesting and after all, what could it hurt?

Milda Page Runner

Whoa! Senlin Ascends or does he? Is he just shedding the shell and Breaking Bad? What a journey and what a transformation.

Gorgeous writing, original world, that is as beautiful as it is cruel, creative and intricate mechanisms. Plot that is both comic and tragic and philosophical filled with unique imagination and breath-taking adventure. Loved it!

This is not a light read. There are certainly some dark and painful moments along the way. But it’s never hopeless and has sparks of humour in unexpec
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Before settling down to write fantasy novels, Josiah Bancroft was a poet, college instructor, and aspiring comic book artist. When he is not writing, he enjoys recording the Crit Faced podcast with his authorial friends, drawing the world of the Tower, and cooking dinner without a recipe. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sharon, their daughter Maddie, and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chapli ...more

Other books in the series

The Books of Babel (4 books)
  • Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel, #2)
  • The Hod King (The Books of Babel, #3)
  • The Fall of Babel (The Books of Babel, #4)

Articles featuring this book

You can't boldly go anywhere if you only stick with what's familiar. Imagine if Frodo Baggins had stayed home or if Ender had...
159 likes · 43 comments
“Senlin did not believe in that sort of love: sudden and selfish and insatiable. 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.” 93 likes
“Even beauty diminishes with study. It is better to glance than gawk.” 43 likes
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