Senlin Ascends (#1)
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 book loves the unexpected, and the random, and the dark and weird. This world is excellently crafted, with each level holding a different story.
My favorite thing about this book, I think, was the fantastic cast of distinguished and compelling side characters. [These included:
→Adam Boreas, a character who is not what he seems (twice). Loved what was done here.
→Finn Goll, a Basement-level acquaintance.
→Edith, a strange friend of the Parlor. Would absolutely die for her.
→Ogier, a painter of the Baths. This man is embroiled in so many plot twists. Help him.
→Voleta, another lost relation. My love.
→Iren, a very morally grey Amazon. One of my other favorite characters. (hide spoiler)]
I really feel like all of these female characters feel very realized for a book written in 2013 by a man, and am hoping that trend continues on to later books. I also enjoyed how this works as a takeoff of the dead-wife-motivator trope: while Marya does not appear within much of the actual book, we get a good sense that she is not only brave, but very clever. While Senlin’s motivation is certainly to find his wife, she is not only a motivator.
What I really liked about this story was that it contained so many incredible plot reveals. It is a very particular talent to turn seemingly random details into an interesting plot reveal. I figured out a few plot twists, but that’s okay: there were always more to impress me. It’s also just very satisfying seeing all the pieces come together into a fantastic reveal. Worldbuilding this detailed is hard to make noteworthy to a plot.
Saying anything else about this would start giving way to spoilers, so here we are: any fans of fantasy that’s more full of mystery and intrigue than epic will really enjoy this. I’m excited to see what book two holds in store!