Arm of the Sphinx – Josiah Bancroft

Synopsis: 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? 

“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 Sphinx is the second installment in The Books of the Babel series by Josiah Bancroft. You may recall my excitable, flailing, gushing review of Senlin Ascends, which was one of my top favorite reads of last year. I declared it a masterpiece & that it’s one of those unparalleled stories that has something for everyone. Although still completely true, I believe that this sequel is even better. Which is incredible. How?! HOW IS IT SO DAMN GLORIOUS?!??!

There is a pulsating veraciousness about Bancroft’s writing. Almost as if magic explodes from his brain onto the page. Magic that feels real & genuine & fucking MAGNETIC. Layer after layer is stripped away, revealing such gorgeous bones underneath.

This is a different book from Senlin Ascends. It’s darker & more philosophical. The plot is more focused & Senlin shares the spotlight, as we are introduced to multiple POV’s. These characters undergo such dramatic growth. Their journey is a deeper one this time around for the reader. We’ve gotten a chance to meet them in the first book, so now they have room to explore. They have space to broaden & cultivate substantially as individual characters. It’s such a welcome experience. Voleta, Iren, Edith.. I just love all of these characters so goddamn much! Most of all, I love the spiraling tower itself. There is a lifetime of stories to be told with each of the ringdoms having their own distinct personalities & I will continue to read whatever Bancroft decides to write about them! It’s truly one of the most original ideas in fantasy.

This series needs to be experienced & enjoyed!

“If there were forests on the moon, Senlin imagined they might well resemble the eerie landscape of the Silk Gardens.

The trees were hard, barkless, and pale as mushrooms. Glowing moss bearded the sandy ground between the disheveled cobblestones of the winding trails. Everything seemed to be pressing up and crowding in. Spider silk laced between branches and swooped over their heads, growing so dense in the high bowers that the fine threads merged into a single, unbroken canopy. The air was parched and cold, and it tickled their nostrils with minerals as pungent as potpourri. Very quickly, the ship and crew seemed far behind them, and they felt quite alone.”

I don’t want to spoil too much, so.. basically Arm of the Sphinx is a swashbuckling adventure. Senlin continues to search for his lost wife, aboard a stolen airship with his delightfully entertaining crew. We see more of the mysterious Tower of Babel & we spend a lot of time in a library with the purrfect librarian!

There’s also a zoo; hilarious witty banter; breathtaking action scenes & of course, the Sphinx, who resembles a spoon & has a cybernetic assistant named Byron.

It’s a story about love & loss & maybe even some redemption – but also, spiders. Lots of spiders!

I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again.. this series is a modern classic. It’s one of those unique stories that feels like it punched a hole through time. It’s just.. it’s timeless. There is so much beauty on every single page.

I am absolutely besotted with this wondrous story. It is utterly enchanting & I cannot recommend this series higher! It has become one of my all-time favorites!

-Holly

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