cover image Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends

Josiah Bancroft. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-51791-1

Bancroft’s brilliant debut fantasy, first in a planned series, stars the eponymous Thomas Senlin, a provincial schoolmaster. Thomas and his wife, Marya, honeymoon at the Tower of Babel, a notable tourist attraction. No one knows how high the tower is, as its upper stories are hidden behind a permanent fog, and many other things about it are also mysterious and dangerous. Upon losing Marya in the massive crowd around the tower’s base, Thomas begins to climb in the hope of meeting her again. Every one of the tower’s staggeringly original individual rooms, many of which have their own cultures, could make a setting for a novel all by itself, and the suspenseful plot and cleverly handled side characters add to the surfeit of riches. The relationship between Thomas and Marya is touching, well-established, and, most importantly, egalitarian. At once steampunk and epic, surreal and yet grounded in believable logistics, this novel goes off like a firework and suggests even greater things in the author’s future. Agent: Ian Drury, Sheil Land Associates. (Jan.)