Ah yes, the book that began my love of indie writing – I read this book a long time ago before I really had any kind of reviewing style. It was a short paragraph about me ranting “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING, BUY IT”. So, I’m redoing the review to give it the fleshed out review it deserves!
Senlin and his new wife are going on a honeymoon, he takes her to the Tower of Babel which is a very popular tourist spot. The pedestrian traffic around the Tower is immense, and so is the Tower itself. It would dwarf mountains and most other fantasy architecture. It’s absolutely enormous and I’ve found a picture online that demonstrates the sheer scale of the Tower.
Senlin becomes separated from his wife with all the hustle and bustle going on, and he has to find her. That may sound like an ‘eh’ plot – but the things he has to go through to try and find her are amazing and kept me turning pages until the wee hours of the night.
Senlin starts at the bottom of the Tower, where the lowest of the low stay and start their journey. The first Ringdom is dirty, crowded and suffocating. There are so many people in there it’s definitely not for those who are claustrophobic – think of the largest Indian or Chinese city and magnify it.
All along the way Senlin doesn’t know who to trust, or what to do. Each Ringdom is the size of a CITY, and he’s trying to find one person lost among the crowd.
The second Ringdom is by far the craziest – it’s a city that’s dedicated to plays and acting – but people have gone insane and start murdering each other. He has to run to get to the next Ringdom which is almost like Roman opulence. There are baths, artwork, fine food and drink and hotels. All the while he’s meeting some super interesting people, I think John Tarrou was my favorite. He becomes a “friend” of Senlin and sort of gives him the run down on how things work in the third Ringdom, including the fact that if you run out of money you’ll be seized by authorities and turned into a Hod (slave).
Final Score: 9/10
The first book in this series is single POV, all seen through the eyes of Senlin. He starts out rather fuddy duddy, very stiff and very sure of himself and his guidebook – which is the worst guidebook in the history of guidebooks. It always leads him down the wrong path and watching him grapple with what he thinks he knew, and what the reality of the situation is was fascinating. He had a lot of growth from beginning to end which was great to see, and by the second book he’s almost a totally different person. He really grows and learns how to think and fend for himself rather than relying on knowledge from his past.
Final Score: 9/10
The Tower is mysterious, no one knows how many Ringdoms there really are, or how the Tower itself was built or who built it. There are a lot of theories floating around, but no one has a full map of the Tower.
Hods are slaves that have either broken the rules or run out of money, they are all over the Tower usually using alternate stairwells and it’s possible they are part of what keeps the Tower running.
The Red Hand is a creepy and terrifying “policeman” that enforces the law in the third Ringdom. The scenes with him had me on the edge of my seat – he injects some kind of red substance into himself and becomes ridiculously powerful, able to rip heads from peoples bodies. Senlin gets on his bad side and it was intense to read about.
Steampunk elements are everywhere, and there’s a touch of animal fantacism as well with giant snails crawling up the walls.
Final Score: 9/10
The pacing of the book started out slower, you’re getting to know the character and get introduced to the world, but the more you get into it the fast it goes.
The tone is definitely adventurous, exploring all of the Ringdoms with Senlin was a lot of fun.
The writing in this book is absolutely phenomonal. It’s one of the best written books I’ve ever read – I’m not usually into more flowery writing, I find it can take away and distract me from the story. But, with this book I was absolutely enamored with the writing and I immediately picked up the next book.
Pacing Final Score: 8/10
Writing Final Score: 10/10
This takes the cake on originality, I’ve never read anything like this before ever, not just this year or last year. The Tower was a completely new experience for me, as was basically everything else about this book.
Final Score: 10/10
- For people looking for something very different
- For people who like adventure stories
- For people who like single pov
- For poeple who want excellent prose
- For people who like steam punk
This one is on my list to pick up next time I’m at the bookstore.
Easily one of the best fantasy series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I think Arm of the Sphinx is even better. I even bought my mom the first two books of this series last Mother’s Day, and she was enamored as well. With the cliffhangers at the end of AotS, I am chomping at the bit for The Hod King. Josiah is an incredibly gifted writer, and this book should be on anyone’s TBR list — a true classic.