Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft – An Audio Book Review

Senlin Ascends


Mild-mannered headmaster, Thomas Senlin prefers his adventures to be safely contained within the pages of a book. So when he loses his new bride shortly after embarking on the honeymoon of their dreams, he is ill-prepared for the trouble that follows. 

To find her, Senlin must enter the Tower of Babel – a world of geniuses and tyrants, of menace and wonder, of unusual animals and mysterious machines. And if he hopes to ever see his wife again, he will have to do more than just survive…this quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

Author: Josiah Bancroft

Narrator: John Banks

Series: Books of Babel #1

Genre: Fiction

Running Time: 14hrs 14mins

My Rating of ‘Senlin Ascends’: 2 out of 5

Purchase: Audible, Amazon


I picked this up after hearing so many glowing things said about it in reviews and from friends … none of those reviews highlighted just how bizarre/odd/weird this book is. And, unfortunately for me, it was not bizarre/odd/weird in a good way. There were parts where I thought I perhaps would have understood or enjoyed it more if I were high.

The concept is an intriguing one but, for me, the execution wasn’t amazing. The motivations, the actions or just the personalities of characters felt a little all over the place. None of the people themselves actually felt like they ever strayed into the territory of feeling overly real. And I’m not massively sure how I feel about Senlin being married to a former student. Feels a tad too much like grooming for my liking.

Despite the whole premise being Senlin struggling to get his wife back, he never seems to struggle on his journey through Babel. Sure, he comes up against problems, trials and tribulations, but within minutes he is seemingly presented with the exact means he needs to overcome said tribulations. Everything seems to happen because it needs to happen, or because the author wants it to, rather than because it’s the kind of thing that would logically happen.

The method of introducing characters felt a bit over-used as well. Every time Senlin is on his own on his journey, he just happens to meet someone who will prove invaluable for his next part of the book. It felt a tad shoe-horned.

For all the faults I found with it, I did find it easy listening and easy to dip into and out of. It’s not without its charm, but I don’t think it’s without its flaws either. Overall, I really can’t see myself ever feeling in the mood to delve further into the series.

15 thoughts on “Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft – An Audio Book Review

  1. I am always sorry when a book doesn’t work out for someone else but I am glad to see some counter-reviews to all the bushwah I’ve read over the past few yeas about this series. I have to admit I avoided it simply because nobody said anything even remotely bad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I, totally not having your good sense, thought that meant I must love it … never seems to be the case.

      I think the bizarre, all over the place mentality of the plot and characters will frustrate many an unsuspecting reader

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The (female) ex-student – (male) ex-teacher marriage used to be a very common trope in literature of the second half of the 20th century literature. It just became shunned after the #metoo cancel culture became a prominent factor among literary critics. Especially when it appears that “the fact that a woman’s sexuality is the root cause of the conflict (…) and that the woman is immediately removed from the narrative” (cit. Strange Horizons). A definitive point in favor is that the series are finished. I will have to balance your 2 star review against the average 4+ star review on Goodreads.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ph, I’m under no illusions that I’m in the minority. It seems to be quite well-loved. And I was seriously hoping to get stuck in to a complete series. Alas, it was just not a book that was meant for me


  3. Huh. While I found it a little slow, I can’t recall the things that bothered you bothering me. To each his own, I guess. I really liked the reader, though. And all higher academics marry their students (though it’s usually a advisor/grad-student kinda thing i think…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I’m fully accepting this is a more ‘for the majority, but not for me’ type book. My only solace is that a few negative reviews I’ve read since say similar things. So I don’t feel like I imagine it😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you, I saw many glowing reviews for this book, but something always kept me from giving it a chance – it’s what I call my “book vibes” and they are rarely wrong: your review confirmed that those vibes steered once again in the right direction…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was considering reading this for a while and something just didn’t feel right despite the wave of glowing reviews. I’m glad you took that hit and now I don’t have to 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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