|I think this cover looks amazing.|
I started reading this book while in Brussels because Daniel was taking so long with The Unknown Soldiers. Senlin Ascends has been getting a ton of hype lately, and for a change, I feel like it was every bit deserved.
Thomas Senlin, a school headmaster, goes with his wife on a honeymoon to the prestigious Tower of Babel - a place for the cultured, the luxurious, the ones who need nothing more in life.
It all goes bad within minutes, as fate would have it. Senlin and Marya get separated in the market, and Senlin is left with their money and train tickets back home. He decides to climb to the third ringdom of the tower that reaches to the skies, and meet her at the Baths, where they were going to go.
Only the Tower isn't what he thought. It's full of criminals, corruption, dictators and straight-up torture. He meets what he believes to be friends, only can you trust anyone in a place where everyone is indebted, threatened and alone?
The writing and the characters are both incredibly strong in this book. Senlin is very intelligent and capable of sharp wits and analysis, and everyone he meets feels like a person even before you find the burden they might be carrying. I loved most of the characters in this, but also the way they were all so different and in the Tower for their own reasons. My favourite was probably Edith, though I will tell you nothing about her because you shouldn't know too much. Even as I say this, I liked all of the characters and their backstories a lot. Senlin himself has a tremendous amount of character growth and it still feels believable and not like an awkward level up.
The setting is also excellent, not necessarily 100% real but something I can still imagine, with an old-school steampunk vibe but with added bits of intrigue from everywhere. It felt East more than West, but in a believable way. The different ringdoms of the Tower are very creative and different from one another, but the book never forgets about the ones it's already gone through. That's really cool. Each chapter also open with a quote from a book, at first from "Everyman's Guide", which is Senlin's trusty guidebook from the beginning. Later it becomes "Every Man's Tower", which Senlin writes himself. These quotes are often witty and sometimes downright ironic, and they're a lot of fun to read.
Senlin Ascends is the first in a four-book series, the last two not being out yet. I think I'll give it some time before reading part two, but at the same time I am so excited to do it! Meanwhile, I recommend this so much!! Please read it!! It's amazing and I want everyone to get this sort of experience of a great book that feels fresh and engaging. While writing this review, I bought physical copies of this one and Arm of the Sphinx, the sequel, on Amazon. Whoops. How did that happen.
All in all, a strong 5/5 because I wouldn't even dream of trying to change anything in this amazing little masterpiece. I'm definitely in love.
For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 2: A book discussed in book blogs!