Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft
Review by: James Jakins
I’m going to warn you now, this review is really just going to be me gushing about this book. Probably nothing anyone would consider coherent or helpful, but I’m going to write it anyway.
I never did get around to writing a review for Senlin Ascends, the first in The Books of Babel, so consider this a review for that book, as well.
I was about half-way through Arm of the Sphinx when I had the thought: I think this is my favorite series. I do not say that lightly. This is only the second book and I’m already willing to follow Bancroft wherever he goes with this story.
I don’t want to spoil the story, this is the second in a series, after all, so I’m just going to list a few things that really made this book(and its predecessor) work for me.
The prose. Bancroft is a master. There are times when I had to stop just to appreciate a description or a line of dialogue, or any number of word choices.
The characters. From Senlin himself, who starts out rather unlikable and drastically changes in the best way, to the supporting cast. Every character feels fully fleshed and realized. Even the most outrageous characters give us a glimpse inside their minds and I came to care about them all. Even some I hadn’t expected to like became favorites in just a matter of a few lines.
The setting. Guys, the setting! The titular Tower of Babel is such an amazing setting and the comparisons I’ve seen of this series to Douglas Adams are well earned. Each and every locale explored in these books is so different from the one before it, but somehow they always feel right for the story, and no matter how fantastical or outrageous I never had a hard time picturing them.
Look, just trust me. Me and every other person that’s going to be harping on about these books. Read them. They have airships, pirates, revolutions, heists, cat librarians, robot arms, a giant amazon that whips people with chains. Basically everything you could want in a book.
Also: For those that care, I listened to the audio version. Spot on narration as far as I’m concerned. If you’re more of an audiobook type of reader, you can’t go wrong with this.