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The Books of Babel #2

Arm of the Sphinx

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The Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to reenter as it was to break out of. Forced into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew are struggling to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt to rescue Senlin's lost wife continues.

Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx never comes cheaply, and as Senlin knows, debts aren't always what they seem in the Tower of Babel.

Time is running out, and now Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife. Does anyone truly escape the Tower?

The second book in the word-of-mouth phenomenon fantasy series about one man's dangerous journey through a labyrinthine world.

448 pages, Paperback

First published July 28, 2014

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About the author

Josiah Bancroft

12 books3,166 followers
Before settling down to write fantasy novels, Josiah Bancroft was a poet, college instructor, and aspiring comic book artist. When he is not writing, he enjoys recording the Crit Faced podcast with his authorial friends, drawing the world of the Tower, and cooking dinner without a recipe. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sharon, their daughter Maddie, and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chaplin.

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Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
July 27, 2022
Now re-released in paperback by a major publisher.

It seems ridiculous to me that I should be only the 4th person to be reviewing this book.

Like its predecessor it is a brilliant piece of work. I try to be positive about books where possible, and that can leave me stretching for adjectives when I hit a book that really *really* REALLY works for me. So I've opted for repetition and playing with the font instead.

I understand that everyone has different tastes, and mine aren't always in line with the mainstream, but ... dammit ... these two books are genius. I just love them. The story, characters and imagination shine, and even without the quality of the prose it would be a good tale. But the prose just makes me constantly jealous. Not just the wordplay, but the cleverness of the sentiment and observation behind it.

I love the little snippets at the head of each chapter, taken from books that appear in the story and are apposite or relevant.

"The essential lesson of the zoetrope is this: movement, indeed all progress, even the passage of time, is an illusion. Life is the repetition of stillness."

On its own this is merely pretty, but in situ it's also a wonderful commentary.

I'm not going to address the story excepting to say that any fear that Bancroft might have exhausted the novelty and mystery in book one is misplaced. Some weirdness is resolved, other weirdness added, everything seems interconnected and leading somewhere. It almost puts me in mind of LOST in that respect (though hopefully without the muddled and unsatisfying end).

My central theme here is not to regale you with the particulars of the book (see my review of book 1 for more flavour) but to marvel that such a tremendous work of literature (there, I said the L-word) could languish so unnoticed in the wide ocean of self-published fantasy. It makes you wonder what else is out there.

If these books don't gain some major recognition I will despair of the process...

I will do my bit to spread the word but I don't yet know what the overlap of 'my readership' and 'people who like these books' is. Certainly they are very different, and just because Bancroft's work floats my boat doesn't mean someone who liked The Broken Empire will like them. I am sure, however, that there are very big numbers of readers out there who would LOVE this tale.

I am, as of now, more keen and impatient for the 4th and final book of this series than I am for Rothfuss's Doors of Stone or GRRM's The Winds of Winter, both of which I am very eager to read.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
673 reviews42.7k followers
October 30, 2021
Buddy read with my lovely friends: Melanie & Sarah

Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan, The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan, and now, The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft; I’ll be surprised if this series doesn’t end up becoming the next successful self-published to traditionally published fantasy transition.

Arm of the Sphinx is the second book in The Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft. The story continues months after the end of the previous book. Each chapter still begins with memorable and philosophical quotes such as:

“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”

This second novel is heavily focused on the character’s development and relationship, and I am so impressed by it. Senlin’s crew and their friendship were easily the main highlights of Arm of the Sphinx for me. I don’t think the main plot itself progressed a lot here, but that’s okay; the interactions between Senlin and his crew proceeded gradually, and they felt so believable. I enjoyed this immensely; Bancroft’s decision to widen the usage of the narrative into multiple POVs felt right.

I also think that the amount of mystery and setup established in Arm of the Sphinx was so superb. Part III—and beyond—of the book was so unbelievably compelling that I finished reading the last half in two sittings. It’s clear that there were plenty of unresolved things, but I personally think that Bancroft managed to make this installment exciting while also making it work as a bridge for the next book.

Picture: The Stone Cloudby Josiah Bancroft

I loved the bigger shift into the steampunk fantasy subgenre; it made the series even more fascinating than before. Skyship and sky pirates are now more dominant in the narrative. And also, the world-building was written with enough intricacy without it being distracting to the pacing. Lastly, Bancroft’s prose continues to shine. I loved reading the philosophical inclusion in the book; they felt enchanting, and I’m glued to the page completely.

“The essential lesson of the zoetrope is this: movement, indeed all progress, even the passage of time, is an illusion. Life is the repetition of stillness.”

The Hod King need to come sooner. There are so many mysteries and things that need to be resolved, and if Bancroft managed to pull it off, this will become a quartet to remember in the genre. Arm of the Sphinx, while slightly inferior in comparison to Senlin Ascends, was still an incredible book. I do believe that Orbit Books has landed a hidden gem here. In the years to come, I'm sure this series will launch itself into bigger success and popularity. The Books of Babel is so distinctive in the fantasy genre, and I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves steampunk fantasy with great characterizations, beautiful plus philosophical prose, and fascinating world-building.

You can order the book from: Blackwells (Free International shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions | I also have a Booktube channel

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Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
234 reviews3,010 followers
April 10, 2022
A huge disappointment from a book series that showed so much promise

Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.

This review is likely going to be a little controversial, as it seems based on the goodreads scores that people enjoy this book significantly more than the first book. I gave the first book 4/5 stars, so for me to drop this one down to 2/5 I am left scratching my head as to what I missed that others didn't.

The first book did a great job at created a huge sense of wonder, the character had a very clear motive with a nice sense of progression, and the idea of the book being carved into several different parts where the character slowly moving "up" a huge tower that has huge differences in each room was fun and refreshing.

This book felt like it destroyed all of that work, and ended up as a bit of a convoluted mess. Much of the first part of the book isn't even about the tower itself, it's about what the characters have done since the ending of the previous book (an ending that I thought was the weakest part of the book). As such, it felt like a continuation of the weakest aspects of the first book. The cast of characters has greatly expanded so that the main character is arguably not even Senlin anymore, and his journey to rescue his wife doesn't even feel like the core of the plot anymore.

For one large section of the book, Senlin entirely disappears to take a side-quest that is extremely boring and leaves the main plot to side characters who are equally boring.

What I wanted from this book was most certainly not what I received, and I am greatly worried that the rest of the series is going to be more of the same. I'll give the next book a shot, but my expectations have been greatly reduced.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,165 reviews98.2k followers
February 11, 2018

1.) Senlin Ascends ★★★★★

Buddy Read with Petrik

“Civilization is like sunshine. Spread it about, and the world blooms with culture, innovation, and fraternity. But focus it all upon one spot, and mankind scorches the earth like a ray from a magnifying glass.”

A year has passed since the events that have lead Senlin into the tower. Marya is still missing, but Senlin is still in relentless pursuit to find his missing new bride, but to also find out even more mysteries that lie in every level of the tower.

This review will have minor spoilers from Senlin Ascends! Please do not continue if you have not read the first book in this series. Also, please go pick Senlin Ascends up, because it is unlike anything you've ever read before and will most likely blow your ever loving mind! Seriously, it's good, one of the best books I've read in 2017, and totally worth picking up and giving a try!

“At first I felt as if we had escaped a prison. Now, I feel like we've been locked out of our house”

This book starts out with Senlin, or should I say Captain Mudd, and his new air pirate crew! Yes, him, Iren, Edith, Voleta, and Adam have still taken to the skies and are trying to outsmart the tower (an impossible task, by the way) to let them into the level of Pelphia, where Senlin believes his wife has been taken to.

In Senlin Ascends we were able to see in great detail and explore the Market, the Basement, the Parlor, and, my personal favorite, the Baths. Well, in Arm of the Sphinx we only get to explore the Silk Gardens, but not nearly to the degree of the other levels.

We are then thrown into the meat of the actual story! Yes, this tale is much, much bigger than just a missing wife and Senlin's obsession with finding her! And the main story involves a person that makes the word mystery look too shallow to describe them: the Sphinx.

“The Sphinx has seduced many, many men and women with his pretty machines that are full of terrible screams.”

As we learned in Senlin Ascends, Edith was forced to lose her arm, but was given a new one, a better one, a mechanical one. But who gave her this gift and allowed her to keep her life?

I also really enjoyed all the talk about social classes in the Tower. Obviously the Hods are going to play a much bigger role, but I just thought it was a nice touch talking about what many desperate and forgotten souls can do when they have nothing to lose. How the rich get rich off of the lower classes, but that can all change in a matter of moments with a few chain reactions. (Don't talk about politics in your reviews, Melanie! Stop!)

“Just because you don’t recognize mercy doesn’t mean you haven’t been shown it.”

Again, this is a hidden indie gem! This story is mystery after mystery. The world is one of the most unique reading experiences I've ever had. The Tower is nothing short of magnificent. The characters are ones that I'm actually growing to completely love and want to protect at all costs. And the messages are something of pure beauty. This story is amazing and unlike anything else I've ever read.

This is such a fun steampunk story about love and loss, about becoming who you need to be in the face of death, and about how sometimes unexpected friendships can make the very best family. I cannot wait for The Hod King, and I have nothing but high expectations for this series and for Josiah Bancroft.

Also, do I have any artist friends that I can commission this stolen painting of a girl, in the water, with a paper boat? It's actually haunting my nightmares and I need to see it in real life. Also, I have more theories on this panting if anyone would like to contact me and we can put on our tinfoil hats and talk for hours over tea!

“When humanity ceases to aspire, it begins to decline”

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Profile Image for James Tivendale.
310 reviews1,327 followers
February 27, 2018
I received an advance reader copy of Arm of the Sphinx in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Josiah Bancroft and Orbit Books. Bancroft's second outing in The Books of Babel series was originally self-published in 2015 and has recently been re-released through Orbit. Following on from Senlin Ascends, Thomas Senlin and his handful of colourful acquaintances find themselves living a life of piracy outside the tower onboard their commandeered airship The Stone Cloud. This is all a means to an end however as Senlin's key objective is to re-enter the Tower at his earliest convenience and continue searching for his missing wife.

It had been a while since I completed Senlin Ascends and excluding the fact that Thomas hasn't been successful in locating his wife Marya I couldn't completely recollect exact details regarding certain parts of the story, the other main characters or their motives. Bancroft reintroduces the ensemble expertly and cleverly reminds readers of previous happenings without dumbing down the opening chapters. After this brief stage, my memory and knowledge of previous events and the world were reignited so I could then focus on the important part - the story and what happens next in Senlin's misadventure. I won't mention too many details about the narrative itself apart from two of my favourite scenes included a Golden Zoo and a Bottomless Library. Throughout the novel, there are frequently quality and original set pieces, intense thrilling moments, and a few well-placed twists.

There are a larger number of point of view perspectives in the Arm of the Sphinx than in the previous entry. Written in the 3rd person, the characters we follow in addition to Senlin are the one-armed and trustworthy first mate Edith, the inquisitive and adventurous Voleta, her engineer and perhaps untrustworthy brother Adam, and finally, Iren who previously acted as a bouncer/bodyguard within one of the Ringdom's seedy criminal underworld. The character development is excellent and the above-mentioned members of The Stone Cloud really grow and shine and they are no longer merely side characters in "The Thomas Senlin Show." We are introduced to their personal thoughts and feelings which adds heightened affinity and I truly cared about each of these very different individuals.

Bancroft writes an exquisite mix of fantasy and steampunk. As further mysteries of the Tower unfold science-fiction elements are introduced and merge seamlessly. The world-building is brilliant and totally unique. The grandiose and labyrinthine Tower is arguably the main character in this series and in this novel new Ringdom's are introduced for the first time including the Silk Gardens. Each of the Tower's many Ringdom's is the size of a city and they all have great differences aesthetically, socially and politically. The only common denominator is that they can all present an extreme degree of danger.

Each chapter opens with a beautiful and poignant segment that often heightens myths, happenings, and understanding of the Tower. The majority of the chapters are approximately 10-pages which helps feed the "just one more chapter"-itch and is the reason that I devoured this book within a couple of days. Arm of the Sphinx is a completely original and beautifully written story that is poetic, descriptive and completely intoxicating. I mentioned in my Senlin Ascends review that Bancroft's work reads like a classic and that statement is completely true for Arm of the Sphinx too. At the finale, everything is set up brilliantly for the next instalment of The Books of Babel. The twist on the very last page is shocking but makes a potential future event completely unpredictable and infinitely intriguing. Start this series if you haven't already. I don't think you will regret it. I'm personally counting down the days until I can re-enter the Tower with Book #3: The Hod King.
Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,215 followers
July 6, 2017

"If there isn’t peril, then it isn’t an adventure.”

Buddy read with my favourite book pal, Petrik.

**This review contains minor spoilers for Senlin Ascends**

I really enjoy my Journeys in the Tower of Babel, but I just feel this novel was not on book ones level. Don't get me wrong, it was still a fantastic novel, However Senlin Ascends was like finding a bag of magic mushrooms devouring the whole bag in one mouthful, then sitting back and letting your mind go on a wild incredible fun journey. (Not that I'd know anything about mushrooms). I feel like Arm of the Sphinx was missing the weird & wonderful vibes that the first novel had and it made my enjoyment of the novel descend, the main reason why I loved Senlin Ascends so much is because the world felt so new and unique, I had never read anything like it before, however with this novel I feel like I know the world well and there wasn't a whole lot of weird happening or any new themes. Basically just your standard Steampunk book with a couple of twists. In reality I was just here for the weird, but got none except a talking spoon who flys on a tea tray
“He looks like a spoon.”
“Like a spoon?”
“A spoon,” Edith said with utter conviction.
Voleta laughed and immediately apologized.”
. Aside from my mind not being blown to smitherines while reading, I still enjoyed it a lot, in fact I smiled the whole entire time while reading it. Josiah Bancroft has a way with words, his sentences are so wonderfully beautiful and poetic, this is the type of writing I love. Asides from the writing being so lovely, it's also very clever, well thought and every sentence has its own hidden meaning, so it's thought provoking, a lot of authors try to write like this but fail miserably, whereas Bancroft achieves it effortlessly. I'm in awe of his writing prowess & you must remember folks that this is a debut series, so clearly Bancroft was created by the universe to deliver beautiful writing to all us readers.

“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”

The story follows Tom Senlin now known as Tom Mudd, who was once a mild mannered man on a journey looking for his lost wife, a year has passed and the tower has corrupted Tom, gone are the days of the innocent headmaster, he is now a savage brigand pirate on the run with his crew. A bunch of misfits who Tom rescued. They are still looking for Toms wife but now are taking the journey on an Airship called The Stone Cloud. Toms crew consists of three women, Edith a woman with a mechanical arm, Voleta an acrobatic free spirit (my favourite character) & Iren a woman who is stronger then a man. The only men on board are Tom & Adam, who have had their differences in the past. Tom is haunted by the ghost of his wife, the whole crew have been keeping secrets from each other and in time those secrets will throw the gang into turmoil. The novel consists of three main Arcs & only one new level of the tower is introduced which is the Silk Gardens, I'm really looking forward to them reaching the top of the tower hopefully in the next novel, my mind is absolutely reeling with unanswered questions.

“This violence had affected him like a shot of brandy, leaving him clear-headed and vigilant. It was a surprise to find that violence could work in such a way, and he wondered if it was like brandy in other ways: was violence clarifying in doses but intoxicating in excess? Could one deal out murder responsibly, even civilly? Was violence, like wine, the midwife of philosophy?”

This time around the story is told in Multi person POV, instead of just Tom's first person POV, which I should add made the story more refreshing and suspenseful. There is a lot more violence and badassery this time around. But I definitely had a few issues with the story, it was actually pretty boring at the start I was losing interest in the story very quickly, I also expected more from the silk gardens, however the last ARC made up for all the boringness I had to force myself to read through and it did get weirder as the story went. I didn't once feel truly entranced by the story and felt there was a lack of feeling charmed. Which is really important to me, I want to be so immersed into a story I sacrifice sleep, but with this novel I didn't get that feeling I was kind 'meh' about it, the plot is definitely a slow burn and I was hoping for a lot more progression in this series then we actually got. I guess what I'm trying to say is I expected more? I feel this novel was just a big introduction into the 'larger scheme of things' and definitely was a setup for the later volumes. Which does excite me and leave me wanting more, due to the lack of closure and the fact I have so many unanswered questions, please Bancroft stop torturing me and hurry up and finish The Hod King, because quite frankly I need more and I need it now. But there was a few good things in the novel too, the displays of friendships and character development was truly satisfying. I'm so glad that Orbit has picked up this series and definitely feel this hidden gem has always been deserving of being a published best seller. This is one of those series that I'll remember forever.

“I have eaten the chocolate. To the future me that reads this: I am sorry. It was delicious.”

Recommended to everyone over the age of 15. If you love steampunk you'll love this series and I'll also recommend it to any reader looking for something different and memorable.

P.S. If you need me you'll find me in the basement still on the beer-me-go-rounds.

You can find this review and my other reviews at Booksprens.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
695 reviews1,073 followers
July 8, 2020
“These people are all tea and biscuits until you tell them no thank you, and then the knives come out.”

And so continues one of the most unique fantasy series I’ve read!

Thomas Senlin and his crew of The Stone Cloud are continuing their hunt for Senlin’s missing wife Marya. They are on their way to Pelphia where Tom believes she is.

As expected they are constantly waylaid with troubles, often narrowly escaping with their lives. I love the characters - Iren, Edith, Adam and Voleta, each with their own powerful personalities and histories.

They travel through the silk gardens where they meet a man called Marat who keeps an eye on the black trail and uses teams of hods for his own ends.

Then meeting the mysterious Sphinx. The same Sphinx that gave Edith her metal arm and seems to be some kind of hidden genius.

I didn’t find it quite as gripping as book one. We see a lot more of the different parts of the tower in book 1 than we do here. But instead we get closer characterisation and an undercurrent of questions about what the towers purpose really is.

Just as one mystery is solved more pop up which keeps you going and I’m really looking forward to The Hod King!

“I’m going to ask you to entertain an alternative view of the world. First, you’ll find it funny; then it will make you angry; then you’ll be frightened. It’s all perfectly natural. It is the feeling of discovery, and it grows more unsettling the older we get.”
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
September 18, 2021
so i have no idea what steampunk is, but apparently its a thing. and i guess a thing that i like because this was fun! loads of mystery and adventure and piracy to be had by all!

and what started as a crush has now turned into a full on obsession with senlin. i absolutely adore how, even though his circumstances have forced him to do questionable things, he has not lost sight of who he is as a person.

i will concede, however, this is not as captivating as the first book (its a bit slow and its also heading in a direction that im not sure i will like - looking at you, marya), but it is still a solid sequel!

4 stars
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,007 reviews1,327 followers
November 26, 2019
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“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”

Senlin Ascends ★★★★
Arm of the Sphinx ★★★ 3/4

★ I preferred Senlin Ascends a little bit more than Arm of the Sphinx and that’s why I couldn’t give it a full 4 stars but rounded my rating up. I guess the story remains a good and unique one but I will try to tell you what I felt while reading this book.

★ I have mixed emotions when it comes to Mister Bancroft’s writing, the number of quotes I can come up with from this book is humongous. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter all can be quoted and are so good and also funny! I like the humor in this series in a weird way because I’d think it would not work but it does. That is the good part when it comes to the prose, the part that sometimes got on my nerves is the use of complicated words to make it sound extravagant but it was too much! I think I am not being fair in this point because the author seems like a very smart person and I think those words are part of his vocabulary but I couldn’t help thinking that he put them intentionally there! It is like how the top student in a class can sometimes be annoying although he is not doing anything wrong!!

★ The characters are as cool as in book 1 and the development in this series remains a great one! I like how much Senlin changed from book 1 till this point! There were some new characters and some characters we say farewell to but they all had a time to develop and grow on me as a reader. The fantasy elements were obvious more in this book with new creatures added to the book like the sphinx and the stag! I can’t deny that the parts I enjoy most are the not-fantasy parts were Senlin remembers his students and day as a teacher back at his home village!

“The man or woman who is rarely lost, rarely discovers anything new.”

★ I think the book has a great concept and is very unique! I have never read anything similar before and I don’t think I will soon. I was kind of feeling meh at some point while reading but shout out to David who I had a conversation with and he reminded me why I loved this series and my enthusiasm was there all over again and I enjoyed it much more. But I wish we continued more like in book 1 where we visited more areas or floors than in this one and I thought that was why book 1 is more enjoyable! The time we spent on the floors in this one is used well to establish many things but more floors equates to more fun in my humble opinion.

★ This book also did not move the plot very much and felt more like a filler but it provided some answers to questions from book 1. But the book can be slow and the action is not the best but I think the book is not going to be that action-packed! I was never a fan of mechanic and machines which is the core of Steampunk fantasy but I enjoyed this one. These elements were certainly more prevalent in this book and the vibes it gave were different from book 1.

“History is a love letter to tyrants written in the blood of the overrun, the forgotten, the expunged!”

★ Summary and Prescription: The book was different from book 1 but it still had its quirkiness that makes it special! There are new floors and characters to discover, old characters gets major developments and answers are provided but the tower remains a mystery to be discovered in the next books! Will I continue this series? yes, but I am going to wait closer to the publishing of book 4 which I think was postponed to 2021 so that I can have things fresh in my memory! I recommend this for fans of Steampunk fantasy and unique worlds!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Hiu Gregg.
113 reviews156 followers
January 25, 2018
I was really nervous about reading this book. So nervous that I took 6 months to finally pluck up the courage to read it.

Why was I nervous? Well, because I loved Senlin Ascends. I loved it so severely, I had convinced myself that anything which followed would only suffer in comparison. The ending of the first novel (and I'm going to be careful to avoid any spoilers here) marked a distinct change in direction for the series, and I was worried that such a change would not necessarily be for the better. I was terrified that Arm of the Sphinx would be a completely different book from Senlin Ascends.

It was.

But I loved it anyway.

Throughout Senlin Ascends there was an optimistic, almost jovial tone which offered a delicious and surreal contrast with the reality of the tower. Senlin, for all his priggishness, was a principled and idealistic fellow. The side-characters -- colourful, memorable, and charismatic as they were -- were given fleeting moments of page-time. They were dance partners at a ball; you would enjoy the few moments you had with them, but it would soon be time to say goodbye. The tower itself was like a magician, capturing your attention with loud and impossible feats of magic, and then distracting you before you could ask too many questions.

Arm of the Sphinx is not Senlin Ascends.

The tone is markedly different. There is very little sense of optimism, and it's almost brooding in some parts. Senlin himself has been left disillusioned and embittered by his experiences in the tower. The side-characters are no longer side-characters, they have chapters and thoughts and adventures all of their own. If you had met these characters at a ball, then this would be the dinner that follows, and they would be your company. If the tower had been a magician before, then now you have had a peek behind the curtain. It doesn't seem quite so magical now that you know a few of its secrets, but there are still enough mysteries to tug at your curiosity.

Arm of the Sphinx is more raw than Senlin Ascends, more real. Actions have consequences, people have feelings, and Bancroft takes time to explore these. His style of writing is as beautiful and engrossing as ever, sprinkled with the most wonderful, quotable passages. He is a master of metaphor and the sovereign of simile. He has a distinct style that nestles in your head, and inspires even me -- a man who loves his numbers and 'ratings' -- to fill my review with my own sad, limping attempts at analogy.

The scope of this novel is both larger and smaller than the previous. We see more of the tower. We get answers to some of our questions, and more questions arise in turn. But while Senlin Ascends required a lot of looking up, and looking around, Arm of the Sphinx takes the time to look inside. It is a more introspective novel, with a larger focus on character and relationships. It asks important and philosophical questions, such as 'Do a man's experiences change who he is?'.

It is a marvelous, magnificent, brilliant little gem of a book worthy of every superlative that is thrown at it.

I won't be nearly as nervous when the time comes to pick up book 3.
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
316 reviews464 followers
September 26, 2021
I’m rewriting this review to post on the Fantasy Hive blog. I’ll post it here as soon as it’s on the blog. Rest assured though, I love this book!
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
354 reviews1,461 followers
August 6, 2022
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

“The man or woman who is rarely lost, rarely discovers anything new.”

Arm of the Sphinx is the second instalment of The Books of Babel, which is a truly original idea, as far as I have read anyway. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read that explored more of this fantastical world, just as I asked for when I finished book one.

Although it had been nigh two years since I read the first instalment of the series, it was easy to ease myself back into this world and into the mind of the great central protagonist and perspective, Thomas Senlin. Very witty in its style and characters, Arm of the Sphinx explores more of the world in a highly satisfying way, introducing other cultural aspects and new powerful figures that accompany twists and turns that keep you engaged and on your feet.

“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”

We follow Thomas Senlin, who as I said is a great protagonist, and his eclectic crew, who I really enjoyed learning more about. As well as exploring more of the world, the character growth was another strong aspect of Arms of the Sphinx.

Whilst the world and characters were strong, I would perhaps say that the weakness was the pacing, which dragged a bit in the middle. Josiah Bancroft plants a lot of hooks through mysteries that I was really engaged in. Initially the steady flow of clues and reveals and questions was great, but personally I felt that that there was nit much of depth that added much to the story in this middle section.

“History is a love letter to tyrants written in the blood of the overrun, the forgotten, the expunged!”

Arm of the Sphinx is an accomplished sequel that expands on this world in a really interesting way whilst also working on character growth in a really effective they that invested me in the story. Because of this, the pacing did not detract too much from the story as a whole, and I would still recommend this highly to many fantasy readers looking for a slightly different read.

Profile Image for Mili.
386 reviews33 followers
February 1, 2019
I recently reread Arm of the Sphinx. I am still loving this world so much, and going through all the details and the adventure again had me all excited. Can't wait to get my hands on Hod King, damn pre order delivery is taking forever!

I recommend this series highly! It is such a treat, the writing style and imagination is magnificent!
Continued the sequel with Bookish Buddies!
A strong sequel, again very entertaining and beautifully written. Even though you didnt have the new world vibe anymore that was strong and strange in book one, it was still filled with oddities that you expected ( sure ) but also very much wanted! The curiosity to know what else the tower contained made it feel very adventurous, it was so vivid and fun! The team has a strong chemistry, all of them are lovable pieces in the story. So yes again crazy stuff happens, beautiful language is thrown at you and a cliffhanger to yearn for book 3~

Read and enjoy :)

'We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of msyelf queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.'
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews826 followers
August 4, 2022
“When humanity ceases to aspire, it begins to decline.”

If the previous book in the series is entitled “Senlin Ascends” it would be fitting to name this one “Senlin Descends or Perhaps Even Plunges, Tumbles and Plummets to the Very Bottom of Things.”

Life was supposed to be so much easier for Thomas Senlin aka Captain Thomas Mudd and his motley crew of misfits after their daring acts of emancipation. Instead, they are barely scraping by, and none of them is closer to fulfilling their heart’s dream. They are circling around the Tower like a spurned suitor, and it is clear that Thomas is lost.

Who is he now, roughly a year after he lost his wife? Is it still his duty to “go to her rescue” or is it a sense of guilt that drives him? Where is it that his responsibilities lie: in what he has lost or in what he has gained during his climb?

This feeling of being adrift and in between is palpable in how the pacing of the story slows down. While the last parts of the previous book gained grim determination and focus, here we are back to the slow start again. Thomas hesitates, he hovers, he clings to the remnants of his persona, his memories; to everything that gives him a reason to continue his otherwise utterly senseless quest and simultaneously prevents him from becoming his own worst enemy.

Although Thomas hides these struggles from his crew, this is no longer something that is his concerns only. I liked how the tale stops being exclusively Thomas’ story. Other protagonists come to the fore with their own POVs and bring new dynamics to the tale. Edith and Voleta are easily the most colourful of those; the latter with her cheerful disregard for order boredom (all the world is her trapeze!), the former due to her anchoring strength and no-nonsense personality. But also Adam and Iron reveal some surprising facets to their hitherto predictable selves that I really appreciated. Their weaknesses are exposed, but this springs unexpected strengths and deep psychological crevices that the Author deftly explores.

If you hope to keep exploring the Tower: do not get too excited. We visit two (and a half?) ringdoms in this instalment, and otherwise only glimpse here an there either by reminiscing or obscure references, mostly anecdotal information inferred on the basis of individual scenes, both short and random. Instead, we get to meet the ruthless tinkerer, that is the Sphinx, and his quirky automatons. The Sphinx is full of riddles, but also full of designs, and it is rewarding to finally see how slowly the various intrigues we could suspect howling around oblivious Thomas take shapes, get names and rationale behind them. Suddenly, a lot more things start making sense. There is a grand scheme, a reason for all these seemingly disparate events from stolen wives to stolen paintings.

Luckily for us, solving some mysteries merely leads to bigger ones, and it is superb craftsmanship on Mr Bancroft’s part. His world building is like a huge matryoshka doll: one open box leads to another leads to another, and another one—all fitting seamlessly together and yet connecting disparate ideas some mystic, some very steampunk, others utterly cosmic.

I did appreciate how Mr Bancroft dragged Thomas through the horror of his insecurities and how he made him dependent on the other characters: both literally and figuratively. The developments in this book range between expected and breathtaking. What happens when one runs out of the Tower to climb? Who is the Brick Layer? What has the Sphinx in common with a spoon and a tea tray? Why is there a war brewing? Last but not least: Where is Marya?

Under normal circumstances, the librarian cat would be more than enough to change me into a fan. In this gem, it is just one of many wonders of an intricate tale, nearly unworthy of mentioning. I can only savour the anticipation of more wonders to come in the next book.

Also in the series:

1. Senlin Ascends ★★★★☆
3. The Hod King ★★★★☆
4. The Fall of Babel ★★★☆☆
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
299 reviews234 followers
February 9, 2017

Loved it!

Lighter, more humorous with more action-adventure than the first book. The pacing is better and I believe readers who liked Senlin Ascends but had issues with the pacing will enjoy this one more. Everyone in the crew get their own Pov which sets a different tone, since not everyone is as intellectual and gloomy as Senlin. We have some of the coolest women I’ve seen in a steam-punk fantasy here and pirates no less. Pirate adventure and camaraderie, friendship and crew gluing together earning each other’s trust and respect - is the main theme of this book. There are also three new Tower levels explored and a peak at the summit; close up and personal meet with the mysterious Sphinx.

Despite overall lighter and more optimistic feel Arm of the Sphinx doesn’t lose its bite. Philosophical undercurrent is still here, there is no lack of trippy nightmarish situations and thought-provoking moments.

Highly recommend!

Profile Image for Dave.
3,010 reviews331 followers
May 21, 2023
Five Stars. A positively magnificent explosion of imagination and adventure. Just as much fun and excitement as the first book in the series, but boldly going places not even dreamed of in the first book. Arm of the Sphinx is the second of four planned books in the series, although i would really like a dozen more books in this series.

The first book dared to imagine a world where the biblical Tower of Babel existed as one of the - if not the best one -- great wonders of the ancient world. But it's a world where there are air ships and steam trains and mechanical arms. It took our antihero Senlin for a journey from his life as a schoolteacher to the great swirling marketplace at the base of the tower and through the dizzying lower levels of the great tower which revealed a mad sinister world of basements and betrayals and cathouses and ports and Senlin's development.

Book two picks up Senlin's adventures as he and his intrepid crew consisting of a one-armed first mate, a flying acrobat, a giantess warrior, and a backstabber -- become the most feared pirates ringing the great tower, great aerial battles, adventures in a seemingly deserted level. Of course, all the adventures are great but ultimately they lead him to the lair of the Sphinx and those who serve the Sphinx and the mad crazy world of the Sphinx. It is well-written, filled with excitement and surprises, and simply put great fun. As Senlin and his merry crew - go from one amazing adventure to the next. Sort of Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Hobbit. Tell me when the next one is coming out.
Profile Image for Leona.
72 reviews24 followers
April 7, 2017
Senlin Ascends was a superb read and this book is even better.

Arm of the Sphinx is a Steampunk wonder of high literary quality, featuring incredible adventures, top notch character development, beautiful scenes, entrancing imagination and, I must mention, supplemented with marvelous artwork on the author’s site and Instagram account. I highly recommend going to the author's web site and checking out the artwork. I am very much looking forward to the release of the third book, The Hod King. I can’t recommend this series enough, it’s one of the best indie gems that came out of Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) contest and I must thank the bloggers and Mark Lawrence for bringing this awesome series to the spotlight.

See my full review on my blog: https://leonahenry.wordpress.com/2017...
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews224 followers
March 29, 2017
DNF 33%

I really wanted to like this book and series and it's not all bad. The world building from book one was so promising even with the slow pace. Then this book started off really good. The author has a habit of straying from the action in a way that's distracting not tension building. I found myself wanting to do anything but continue reading it. Maybe it picks up and finishes on an upnote like the last book but life's too short to find out.
Profile Image for Mike.
481 reviews375 followers
June 30, 2017
Civilization is like sunshine. Spread it about, and the world blooms with culture, innovation, and fraternity. But focus it all upon one spot, and mankind scorches the earth like a ray from a magnifying glass.
While the Tower certainly has civilization to spare, I would be hard pressed to say it was civilized. Barbarity clothed in silk is just as savage (possibly more so) than barbarity clothed in leather and furs. Considering what Senlin had to go through in the the first book any pretense of the Tower being a beacon of civilization and culture is long gone. Survival is the name of the game in this ancient artifact, and those that don't recognize it are quickly driven to despair or slavery, locked in this massive asylum run by the inmates.

Unlike the first book which concentrated nearly exclusively on Senlin, this installment had more of an ensemble cast feel. In fact for significant lengths of pages Senlin is completely absent from the narrative. I liked this decision Bancroft made, it rounded out the crew nicely and showed that they were motivated by much more than helping their friend Senlin find his wife. They had their own hopes, dreams, goals, and motivations which move them along their own path in the story instead of being slaved to Senlin's path to serve the book's plot. What they did and the choices they made were informed by their experiences and situation, not just Senlin's needs.

We also got to see more of the tower and learn of its inner workings and secrets, not to mention being exposed to two conspiracies that will likely have major implications of the Tower and its ringdoms. Bancroft really did a top notch job envisioning and realizing the peculiar, exotic, yet wholly realistic cultures and societies within this strange and immense structure. Human politics, vanities, shortcomings, and vices play out here just as much as they would in the real world, but these impulses are channeled into interesting places due to the environment Bancroft has created for them.

Instead of countries vying to control more land or resources, ringdoms (kingdoms that occupy one or several rings or Tower levels), when they do go into conflict, compete for the tower levels that separate them. Sometimes this results in whole levels being turned into de facto buffer zones with neither neighboring power occupying it. It is within these holes in ringdom control that one particularly dangerous conspiracy is growing and preparing to spread. Bancroft clearly has an excellent grasp of this strange geopolitical ecosystem and I look forward to how he will let the events unfold.

But as much as I enjoyed this book it clearly had the hallmarks of a middle book in a series. I wouldn't exactly say that the plot was stagnant, Senlin and crew are pretty active for most of the story, but the path of character development was very much concentrated on getting each of the characters into a certain place (both physically and in terms of a frame of mind) by the end of the book. It was welcomed character development, don't get me wrong, and very well down in all cases, but Bancroft was clearly using this book to get his characters into a position he needs them to be in for the next book. This book is setting the board for the game that will play out in the third book and that goal somewhat diminishes the importance and effectiveness of this second installment.

But such is the fate of most second books, especially in trilogies. This was still a great read and offers up so many tantalizing revelations that will (I'm sure) blossom in fascinating and unexpected ways in the next installment.
Profile Image for Marielle.
264 reviews39 followers
February 5, 2017
Since I loved Senlin Ascends I was a bit afraid to start part 2. What if I didn't like it! There was no need to worry because I also loved this second book.
More amazing adventures, more unexpected people and events, more imagination... More Alice in Wonderland.
Before reading this book I thought I knew... The author could not surprise me again... Could he? Well he could and he did and I am just so excited about these books!
I simply can't wait for The Hod King, it is among my most anticipated books of 2017.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews617 followers
April 27, 2018
As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I found Arm of the Sphinx particularly at the beginning to be far more action-oriented than Senlin Ascends. Whereas the previous book starts rather sedately building the setting of the illustrious Tower of Babel and the character of Thomas Senlin this time around Bancroft starts things off with an action-packed bang.

The start of Arm of the Sphinx is akin to a piratical tale as the Stone Cloud (the airship that Senlin and now going under the alias Captain Tom Mudd stole at the end of Senlin Ascends) and its crew of intrepid explorers are forced by necessity into a life of pirating as they attempt to find a way back in to the Tower of Babel. Things do somewhat taper off after Senlin and the crew manage to re-enter the aforementioned Tower and after their adventure in the Silk Gardens concludes. When they finally meet the mysterious Sphinx the book changes to focusing more on the characters and their individual development.

Arm of the Sphinx is somewhat different in tone to Senlin Ascends, it’s predecessor. Senlin’s search for his wife is still the main and overarching story for The Books of Babel series and the ultimate goal for Senlin but in Arm of the Sphinx, it takes a far less prominent role as we learn more about the machinations and internal strife that are plaguing the tower.

Though ably supported by a secondary cast of characters Senlin Ascends was predominantly the lone tale of Thomas Senlin and his search for Marya, his wife. With Arm of the Sphinx Bancroft switches style so that the once secondary set of characters are all given more pages to themselves and time in the story. Instead of Arm of the Sphinx being a solitary tale it’s a group effort with Adam, Voleta (who apart from Senlin himself is my favourite character, a spunky wise-ass), Iren and Edith all taking on the mantle of main characters alongside Senlin with each being allowed plenty of page space by Bancroft and given the chance to shine, grow and partake in their own separate escapades and adventures.

We get to delve deeper into the Tower, its origins and its history in Arm of the Sphinx and let’s face it. The Tower of Babel is as much an integral part of the story as any of the other characters and is an utterly fascinating creation and setting.

To go with the crew of the Stone Cloud who we already know a few new characters are introduced by Bancroft. Without going into any undue detail I particularly found the Sphinx (from the title of the book) to be an absolutely enigmatic and surreal character and there was also something superb about Byron (a secondary character) too.

For me, the main focus in Arm of the Sphinx was in further developing and exploring the characters and in that aspect Bancroft does a wonderful job. Everyone is fully fleshed out and realised and you will find no one-dimensional cardboard cutout characters here.

It’s not all about the characters though and Arm of the Sphinx also moves the story forward, plant seeds for future showdowns and revelations and sets the story up nicely for the next instalment in the series, The Hod King.

Arm of the Sphinx leaves you wanting to find out what happens next, is a stellar continuation of The Books of Babel and an absolute pleasure to read. I, like I’m sure many others also are, am in awe of Bancroft and his imagination.

The Books of Babel are an extravaganza of ingenuity. I find myself enamoured by Bancroft’s creation, utterly enamoured!
Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books337 followers
March 25, 2022
This second installment is even better than the first. The world really opens up as well as the characters. We get more POVs and more character arcs. The characters become very loveable. The world is mysterious and totally original. Without a doubt there isn’t quite another literary world quite like this one. The writing is extremely good with clever word choice and an economy of words as well. The pacing in the first half is perfect and off in the second half which almost made this a four star but I just enjoyed the story so much. I will definitely be reading this entire series.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
August 25, 2018

No, not the literary kind. The story kind! Senlin has taken on a new name and with his intrepid crew, they're flying the skies, being polite, and relieving captains of their loot, and generally progressing the character arcs. Multiple character arcs this time, not just focusing on Senlin.

I'm really enjoying the ride. Senlin seems to be going mad, Adam is trying to get back in everyone's good graces, Edith is going through a mid-life crisis trying to keep Senlin's secrets and dealing with her own armless issues, and our favorite acrobat is just plain delightful.

This book is utterly steampunk.

We've gone through the effort of introducing the world and characters quite nicely in the first and now we've got a somewhat random adventure time as they try to figure out how to find Senlin's missing wife (or find enough to eat).

Worth it?

Yah! This book has a few interesting and creative areas, and without spoiling too much about either the nature of or the details within either, the crew is headed to a zoo and a library. And few things are quite as they seem and the circumstances are pretty fantastic. This is the best quality of these books. Creative and fantastic, with well-drawn characters, cool worldbuilding, and even a platform for a bit of a philosophical ramble. But no worries, it's just there to spice things up and make the text stand out. :)

Oh, and the upgrades and tech stuff are pretty awesome. Not to mention the purpose of the tower! :) The librarian says, "Meow." And just who is the Sphinx? There are a lot of reveals in the second half of the book and overall, it's a bit less meandering.

BUT. This is a middle book. It's kinda obvious. Must wait for more.
Profile Image for Jake Bishop.
279 reviews328 followers
January 28, 2022
I liked this a little bit more than Senlin Ascends.

It was again really solid. Really interesting setting, distinctive characters, really good writing, solid plot progression.

It still didn't blow me away, but I think it is hard to find much to complain about here.

I like the switch to multi PoV, with little dashes of Omniscient, and look forward to The Hod King.

I don't have much more I feel I need to say, if I liked it about book 1, it still applies here.

Profile Image for Maisha  Farzana (on hiatus).
551 reviews216 followers
September 10, 2022
"If worn for too long, a costume becomes comfortable, natural. A man always in disguise must take care lest he become the disguise.”

From the very first page of this sequel to Senlin Ascends, life once again takes some drastic turns for our main protagonist, Thomas Senlin. Once a man of letters, then progressing to a man of action, he must now live a life piracy. The hunt for Senlin’s wife, Marya, becomes more complex and as Senlin and his crew struggle to survive upon their stolen airship, he realises he’s going to need help, a lot of help. In their desperation they decide to seek out the infamous Sphinx. 

“We are, each of us, a multitude. I am not the man I was this morning, nor the man of yesterday. I am a throng of myself queued through time. We are, gentle reader, each a crowd within a crowd.”

"Arm Of The Sphnix" is lot more whimsical and captivating than "Senlin Ascends". This time around, we get to explore the tower in depth; its as surreal as ever, with more strange clockwork mechanisms and bizarre animals, magnificent balloon airships.

Bancroft's prose is exquisite and poetic. In this instalment, his writing is more accessible than it was in his debut. His voice is stronger, the story is much more organised. "Arm Of The Sphnix" has multiple povs. It follows all the members of Senlin's ragtag crew. Senlin’s character still remained at the forefront of the narrative. But we also receive Edith, Voleta, Iren and Adam's perspective on various events.

The characters development is phenomenal. Senlin is not the same man we met in the first book, not anymore. I was pleased to see his naivety lessen, his actions become bolder, and his sense of loyalty to his friends deepen. Senlin's character is so utterly, beautifully human that it never ceases to amaze me. That is why I am so drawn to his character. The other characters are also interesting. I love Edith and Voleta. Both are such awesome badass female characters. They are very very different from each other but I loved them both. Iren doesn't receive the spotlight as frequently. I still liked her. Adam is frustrating to be honest. It made me happy to see that he wants to repent for his actions. He wants to gain the captain's trust once again. He was working really hard for it to be honest. Yet I found him uninteresting, sometimes even annoying. All in, Senlin remains as my favourite character.

“It had never occurred to him how unforgiving books were until he lay at the bottom of a great pile of them.”

The humor is fantastic. This book gave me a good laugh. Many of the characters become sassy and good naturedly bantered or quibbled with one another in this instalment, even when events took perilous turns. Aside from the prose, the magic system, the characters and the humor, I also loved the close knitted friendships we get to see here. Thomas Senlin and his crew are all so loveable. I loved their banter and amazing dynamic with each other. Specially, Senlin and Edith. These two has such an unbreakable bond, built upon mutual trust and respect. If Senlin wasn't married already, I would've started to ship him with Edith.

I liked that this book was focused on fewer geographical locations. There wasn't much of info dumping which gave me relief. Bancroft takes us deeper into the incredible world that he has created. But it never seemed rushed or tiring to me. The pacing is just perfect. Not for a single moment I felt overwhelmed or underwhelmed. And the ending! It is purely evil. The book ends with a cliffhanger. It threw me off. I literally have no idea which direction the author wants to take the story to. Nevertheless, I'm really really excited to read book 3.
Profile Image for Pranav Prabhu.
169 reviews57 followers
September 10, 2021
Arm of the Sphinx continues Thomas Senlin and his motley crew's adventures through the unassuming but dangerous Tower of Babel. This book, in my opinion, was a significant step up in almost every way from its predecessor. Instead of following the PoV of only Senlin, this book features more varied perspective characters from his crew, and it gives an insight into their personalities and motivations and character development, making them much more compelling than the tarnished view we might have gotten from Senlin's perspective in the previous novel.

The worldbuilding and lore of the Tower continue to be expanded on; this unique and creatively crafted word of the Tower feels rich and alive and always managed to keep me intrigued even when the pacing slowed down in the middle sections. This book also read more easily compared to Senlin Ascends with a steady but never boring pace throughout, keeping me interested in these characters and the world.

However, one thing that Senlin Ascends did better than Arm of the Sphinx, I feel, was to have the spark that ignited curiosity and awe regarding the world. The book was engaging, but the initial feeling of the Tower was something I experienced more while reading Senlin Ascends. Overall, this was an excellent book with mysteries and revelations that make me want to pick up The Hod King immediately.
Profile Image for Wol.
113 reviews42 followers
April 4, 2018
I spent the better part of last year kicking myself for not snapping a copy of Arm of the Sphinx back when Josiah was a self-published author, so this re-release has been a long wait for me. I’m thrilled to say that it was every bit as exciting and creative as the first book, and that is in large part due to the change in tone and atmosphere. It was a pretty bold move on Bancroft’s part to switch to Multi-PoV but it’s one that absolutely paid off and really opened up the story. Where Senlin Ascends was the desperate and at times claustrophobic account of an unprepared man clinging to who he had been before the tower, in Arm of the Sphinx we meet a craftier Thomas Senlin, changed immeasurably by his time there. Long gone is the optimistic, plucky fop who held fast to the belief that everything would turn out fine despite all evidence to the contrary. He and the merry band of misfits he gathered to him in the first book have now taken to the skies in a stolen airship as pirates, in what proves to be a more prominently Steampunk outing. The primary goal remains to find Marya. In order to do this, they must find a way back in to the tower, which proves approximately as difficult as getting out had been.

Circumstances have grown somewhat more complicated, however. Thomas is struggling in his new position of leadership, not least because he is secretly haunted by visions of his wife, who chides and taunts him. Our secondary characters have their own ideas on the matter and receive a good deal of development, each with their own well plotted arc – Edith, now Senlin’s trusted second in command and closest confidante, continues to be a huge badass. Flighty Voleta marches to the beat of her own drummer and struggles with taking orders, and Adam works to overcome Senlin’s lack of faith in him. But for me it’s Iren, the monosyllabic bodyguard of the previous entry, who became positively loveable. The relationships between the crew grow deeply engaging over the course of the story.

The prose, as with the previous entry, is gorgeous. Descriptions always feel on point no matter how surreal things get, making visualization easy on the reader. Bancroft has a real knack for simile and metaphor, and occasionally he straight up punches you right in the heart with some pithy observation about life, love and loss. It’s quotable stuff. The setting continues to delight with its eccentric creativity – we’re treated to a couple of new ringdoms, including a bottomless library that you wouldn’t actually want to hang out in (proving that Josiah might secretly be a monster) and the silk gardens, the details of which I won’t spoil for you here. The plotting is tight, well planned and towards the finish, breathless. It culminates in an ending that first made me furious with some of the characters and then left me open-mouthed and swearing with amusement. Things are getting very interesting indeed.

Overall, an excellent second entry – the wait for the Hod King is going to be excruciating.

Bingo Squares 2018

•Reviewed on r/Fantasy
•Features a Library
•2017 Top Novels List
•Less than 2500 GR Ratings (I wouldn’t count on it staying this way for long though)
•RRAWR Author
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews989 followers
April 7, 2018
I devoured the first novel in this series – Senlin Ascends – with its beautifully imagined and totally insane world, throwing a rather normal and easy going guy into a maelstrom of madness, as he loses his wife and almost his sanity. At the end of that book, our main protagonist Senlin was a whole new man…

Now, in book 2, Arm of the Sphinx, we enter once again into the world of The Tower, with it’s quirky, dangerous and unpredictable levels, it’s diverse and often treacherous communities as the hunt for Senlin’s wife intensifies and he and his new found “crew” seek help from the enigmatic Sphinx – a character so devious that even Senlin’s intelligence and problem solving abilities might not be enough to avoid the pitfalls..

I adored this one too – it is so brilliantly entertaining, you know not what you will get from one page to the next, the author explores many socially relevant themes within the multi-layered drama and there are more adventures to be had than you can shake a stick at – or, you know, whatever weapon comes to hand. The characters are wonderful, engaging and sometimes really quite scary and the descriptive sense of the world they inhabit is incredibly immersive. You live it.

Arm of the Sphinx, like Senlin Ascends before it, is a book where you have to wonder what goes on inside the author’s head – but whatever it is you are extremely pleased it has come out onto the page to create this quite simply wonderful story. Roll on book 3. Poor Senlin – I think he has a way to go yet…

HIGHLY recommended.
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