Book Review: Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

29 Aug 2016

Reading the book was like watching an artist compose a painting. Every facet starts out being hazy and becoming clearer over time. Senlin doesn’t start out being likeable. You don’t feel any sympathy for his rather dull persona. His relationship with his wife seems forced and formal. He is very obviously out-of-his depth and every person he meets gets the better of him.

Like Senlin’s progress through the tower, the book is slow. But that is intentional. You realize that the author is taking time to deepen every aspect of the story. That the tower is not what it seems and neither is Senlin. His journey up the tower is also one of self-discovery. It is great to see a character mature as Senlin does. Marya, who you only ‘see’ in the first chapter, also becomes a character you start to root for - even if you only meet her through flashbacks and the eyes of others.

Even the other people Senlin meets on his journey first seem like they can be easily categorized: drunk, lazy, crooked, helpful. But over time, they get so interesting, I wouldn’t mind reading a book dedicated to each person.

The romance is one of the best I’ve read. Rather than tell you how much in love they are: the author lets you see it for yourself. I read one chapter over-and-over, where through flashbacks, he shows their relationship mature over the course of a school year - from annoyance - to acceptance - to respect and finally to love.

The prose is beautiful and lyrical. For example: The painter describing his muse: “she had sat without pretence, and he, without meaning to, had made her appear vain.” and Senlin confronting the man who betrayed him “ “You have no friends.” Senlin laughed “That’s what all my friends say.” “

The humor is original, witty - and kind (am not sure how else to put it).

Have read a lot of fantasy - this one was unlike any I’ve read so far - surprised and delighted me as I read it. Loved it.