Emily May's Reviews > Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
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Sep 09, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, 2016
Recommended to Emily May by: Mark Lawrence

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 a glance at the first few pages and am almost always put off by the poor grammar or writing. I rarely make it past the first chapter and, if I do, the story quickly loses my attention. And, to be honest, I didn't expect Senlin Ascends to be any different.

However, I took a chance on this because it came so highly recommended by Mark Lawrence, and I didn't come up for breath until I'd finished the final page. It is both a masterfully-crafted work of art AND an addictive pageturner.
“Newcomers may expect the ringdoms of the Tower to be like the layers of a cake where each layer is much like the last. But this is not the case. Not at all. Each ringdom is unique and bewildering. The ringdoms of the Tower share only two things in common: the shape of their outermost walls, which are roughly circular, and the price of beef, which is outrageous. The rest is novel.”

Just so you know: it's nothing like Mark Lawrence's work. As I said, it's unlike anything I've ever read. Senlin Ascends is about a man who loses his wife on their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel. Concluding that she must have entered the Tower, the book chronicles his ascent through the ringdoms of the Tower - each a unique, dazzling and completely weird world of its own - on a mission to find his beloved Marya.

The writing is gorgeous and oh so very compelling. It's a bizarre tale that at times feels like one of those strange, suffocating dreams where everything is familiar but also not. There's this undercurrent of wrongness to the novel, even when Senlin finds himself merrily drinking wine on the Baths level of the Tower.
Senlin was unprepared for marriage in every way. He possessed neither the imagination nor emotional warmth that intimacy required.

Marya was so much better at taking the flaws of the world in stride, which was why she was indomitable and difficult to disappoint. She probably found the bull snails and drunken merry-go-round charming.

Characters major and minor come bounding off the pages. I always feel like the best tell for an author truly adept at creating characters is when smaller, secondary characters are important, well-developed and worthy of our interest and/or sympathy. Of course Senlin is important to us, but I also really enjoyed reading about the many people he meets on his journey - Tarrou, Edith, Adam, etc.

But, really, it's so hard to explain why this book is so good. The best tool of a reviewer is comparison but Senlin Ascends just stands on its own. It's depth is almost literary, and yet it is hard to put down. It's unsettling, and yet darkly comical. The protagonist is a stuffy old headmaster, and yet lovable. Add to that some beautiful descriptions of each ringdom, portrayed in exquisite detail with everything from bloodthirsty executioners to clockwork animals... how can you resist stepping in?

And the best thing about this? There's a whole sequel to enjoy!! Arm of the Sphinx is next on my wishlist.

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Comments (showing 1-42 of 42) (42 new)

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DearWilderness Great review! This sounds amazing, I'm always looking for a book that brings something new to the table!


Emily May DearWilderness wrote: "Great review! This sounds amazing, I'm always looking for a book that brings something new to the table!"

Thank you! I am so so glad I read this. I rarely pick up indie books anymore after a string of bad experiences, but this turned out to be a real hidden gem.


message 3: by Ruiner (new) - added it

Ruiner Sounds really interesting and your review has provoked me to add it to my list. This is why I love goodreads! Thanks!


Gunjan (NerdyBirdie) Hi, Emily! Great review! As someone who follows your reviews, it’s very nice and refreshing to see you enjoy a book that isn’t typically expected for review! :D Great review, and I hope you enjoy this series greatly!


Mark Lawrence I'm so glad you liked it! Book 2 is also amazing.


message 6: by Josiah (last edited Sep 12, 2016 02:12PM) (new) - added it

Josiah Bancroft Thank you for taking a chance on my book, Emily. I know that the quality of self-published books varies, but it's people like you and Mark Lawrence that gives us crazy dreamers hope. Thank you.


message 7: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Lovely review, Emily. The new needs friends :)


message 8: by Hayley (new) - added it

Hayley Stone Never heard of this book before now, but it sounds fantastic. Definitely going to check it out!


message 9: by Andrew (new) - added it

Andrew Great review, Emily! I didn't know this book, but it could be one of those rare gems you find almost by accident. Surely deserve a read. :)


Leona Superb review! I've heard about this book from Mark Lawrence's indie book contest, hisand your reviews totally convinced me to move it to the top of my TBR. It sounds like a marvelous story!


message 11: by Tiziana (new)

Tiziana N Wow, Emily! Outstanding review!​


message 12: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Intriguing review, Emily. You have snagged my curiosity and I have no choice but to add this to Mount TBR. Thanks for sharing your findings!


message 13: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Fantastic. I know what you mean about some self published. Glad there was a gem there. I will seek it out now.


message 14: by Xxertz (new)

Xxertz I love the review!


Mel (Epic Reading) So excited Emily!!! This sounds amazing. Now I just have to figure out how to get a copy in Canada...


message 16: by Audrey (new) - added it

Audrey Archibald BookDepository sells it on there site and it's free shipping worldwide.


message 17: by Irene (new) - added it

Irene Sim Your reviews are worth their word count in GOLD. I'm sure my to-read list is never going to suffer with your recommendations!!!!


message 18: by Dyrk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dyrk Ashton Sounds like a must read to me!


message 19: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris C Great review, Emily. Reminds me of what Goodreads is all about. Another book for the "to be read pile".


message 20: by Doug (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug As many have said, this is really what this site is all about. Not only will the readership of this book probably explode (3 years after initially published!) But the author himself made an appearance in this thread...Just great stuff all around and an awesome review, Emily! Thanks to you, a whole lot more people know about this diamond in the rough!


message 21: by Neil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neil This is now going to be read.......thanks to mark and Emily for the recommendation


message 22: by Alexia (new) - added it

Alexia Already got a sample on my Kindel! A must try...


message 23: by Ashley (new) - added it

Ashley Not to compare books, but it sounds a bit Dante's Inferno - no? Either way I am definitely interested and will see if I can get my hands on a copy!


message 24: by Daniella (new) - added it

Daniella Armstrong You've managed to put this firmly on my 'to read' list!


message 25: by Josiah (new) - added it

Josiah Bancroft Ashley wrote: "Not to compare books, but it sounds a bit Dante's Inferno - no? Either way I am definitely interested and will see if I can get my hands on a copy!"
I love Dante's Inferno. It's so lyrical and arch. I'd absolutely count it as one of my inspirations along with Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and Borges' Dream Tigers.


message 26: by Ashley (new) - added it

Ashley Josiah wrote: "Ashley wrote: "Not to compare books, but it sounds a bit Dante's Inferno - no? Either way I am definitely interested and will see if I can get my hands on a copy!"
I love Dante's Inferno. It's so l..."


Thank you for the added background for the book, Josiah! Looking forward to experiencing the Tower!


Korey I just wanted to say I am reading this book right now based on your recommendation and it is blowing my mind. It is so spectacular I've cleared my day of any other plans besides sitting and reading. Thanks for writing this review, I doubt I would have heard of this otherwise.


message 28: by Swechcha (new) - added it

Swechcha If you're looking to read more self-pub books that aren't horrible, might I recommend The All For The Game series by Nora Sakavic? It's a short series, probably doesn't exceed 700 pages as a whole, but it has amazing, well developed characters and I don't even know how to explain the plot without giving too much away. It's so much more than what the summary says.


message 29: by Erin (new)

Erin I cant find this book anywhere! How am I going to get my hands on it !?


message 30: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Lawrence Erin wrote: "I cant find this book anywhere! How am I going to get my hands on it !?"

Amazon!


message 31: by Carol ꧁꧂ (new)

Carol  ꧁꧂ Beautifully written review! One of your finest!


message 32: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Dubief Great review - I'm sold!


Lauren This series is free on Kindle Unlimited for those who subscribe - downloading now!


Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin Excellent review, Emily :-)

Lauren, that you for that info on kindle unlimited :-)


Alex  Davidson Thanks Emily, I absolutely loved this and I wouldn't have known about it without your review so cheers from New Zealand. Come visit sometime haha


Emily May Alex wrote: "Thanks Emily, I absolutely loved this and I wouldn't have known about it without your review so cheers from New Zealand. Come visit sometime haha"

Haha, I would absolutely love to! :)


Stefan Gottlieb Thanks, your review inspired me to read this amazing book. Hard to categorise, maybe Gullivers Travels for adults? Loved it and about to start book 2. Do you know when book 3 is expected?


message 38: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Porter Thank you! Been looking for something new


message 39: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon Adams Amazing review. This rapidly became one of my all time favorite books.


message 40: by Jacob (new) - added it

Jacob Great review. May be my first book of 2018!


Robin You’ve said everything I tried to say in my review yet with much more elegance. I hope Josiah reaps all that he has sown with his original and breathtaking talent.


message 42: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy Damn. This sounds amazing. So glad I followed the Goodreads rabbit trail that led me here. Thanks for the fantastic review Emily. This is going on my summer reading list. :)


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