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★★★★★ 5 stars
So I’ve just finished this very awesome read that I am dying to put into a review. Like RIGHT NOW. NAO. (It’s the middle of the night.)
I liked it so much I literally found the author’s website, clicked “email” and wrote a message basically along the lines of PLEASE KEEP WRITING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T STOP.
You guys should too, when you really love a book. Authors have many complicated feelings and they need to know there is someone out there who really, REALLY, but like, really loved it.
I guess, before diving into the review (and all of the fangirling), I should tell you guys what this book is all about, huh.
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft is a book about a headmaster, Thomas Senlin, who gets married, unexpectedly to everyone in his own little fishing village, and perhaps even unexpectedly so to himself. To celebrate this wholly astonishing and wonderful event, he decides to take the trip of his life – and just how much of a trip of his life it is going to be he is yet to know – to visit the magical Tower of Babel, a wonder of the world that he’s been reading tales and stories about since he pretty much remembers himself. However, Senlin will soon find out that not everything people tell you about wonders is true. Not everything you can see or hear is often true either. Not much about his own self is true even, as it turns out. Because when Thomas loses his bride and scrambles to find her, he first has to find himself, his own true self, inevitably distilled in the rough mash and grind of the dark human nature and the chaos he is plunged into headfirst.
So let’s cut down to the chase. Let’s have the review.
At first, it was hard reading this book, because it is just.. ruthless. Like, the first 50% of it is so dark, but truthfully dark, that you will start doubting your own world. It’s kind of hard to get through that. But then, it also helps you realize that change doesn’t happen without pain and we don’t become better human beings by sitting on our couch eating cake. Once you get through the initial death of any and every belief you’ve had, you start seeing the tiny glimpses of light under the surface, so real and true, because gems are always hidden underneath the dirt. And then comes the massive character development. So pretty darn massive, I’m not sure I’ve seen it done in a better way in a book I’ve read all year.
Things this book has:
✓ Fast paced action
✓ Character development
✓ Adventure, plots and deaths
✓ The unmasking of dark human nature
✓ Wonderful, colorful yet very realistic characters
Now I want to talk about that last bit. This book has so many characters you’ll love! Colorful, real-people characters. Starting with Thomas Senlin, the main one, who undergoes a complete transformation and shows the best character development in the book, going further on with Edith, a woman Senlin meets in the Tower, turning from a petticoated country bumpkin into a strong independent lady, onto Tarrou, a man defeated by his demons and his own smallness, enslaved in body but suddenly freed in the soul, up to probably one of my favorite ones – Iren, the illiterate amazon hulk, finding her belief in herself and her own mind through Senlin’s doing. All of this not just because Thomas is looking for his lost wife – it’s because he is looking for fairness, not even justice – but rather meaning and justification that this is not the only thing life, the world and humanity can be. Because life in the Tower, said to be a hallowed and elevated paradise to the simple person, indeed is just a big, dark and treacherous lie, a trap meant to bring the naive and the innocent in, only to be eaten by the machine.
And let’s not forget Senlin’s love for his wife. We start off thinking the same as every other person in his home village thinks – their ‘love’ is a lie. It was convenient. Or maybe it hides some cheesy secret. Surely there can’t be anything between these two people, this shadow of a man and a beautiful, wonderful and playful girl, quite a bit younger than him. But as the story unfolds, we are taught that what we see is not always everything. That love is a mystery, often only for two people to understand. That if a person doesn’t talk much, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel much. Thomas builds a monument to their love story by remembering it. And it’s a touching story. You will not remain cold.
This is for you, if you like adventure. Also, if you don’t fear glancing at the real world – a really dark world. But brace yourself, because the first half of this book is really dark. People who ponder the real nature of the world order will also like this book. And quite simply if you just like books with good emotional development and great character building – you will love this. It’s a great book. A very strong one. And I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Have you read this one? Is it on your TBR? Share with me!
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.