Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft
Book of the Month
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 these characters' 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.
This Arm of the Sphinx book review was written by James Tivendale
All reviews for: The Books of Babel
The Books of Babel #1
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient...
Arm of the Sphinx
The Books of Babel #2
Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt for his lost wife continues. But the Tow...
Have you read Arm of the Sphinx?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Arm of the Sphinx reader reviews
Jon from Japan
Seamless continuation of the first book, stakes are raised, characters are developed, can't wait for the next book to come out!
9.5/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Perdido Street Station
The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rive...
The Anubis Gates
Brendan Doyle is a twentieth-century English professor who travels back to 1810 London to attend a lecture given by English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a...
The City and the City
When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Besźel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector T...
The Difference Engine
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the developm...
A colossal fantasy of incredible diversity and spellbinding imagination. A human cargo bound for servitude in exile... A pirate city hauled across the oceans... A hidden mi...
The Aeronaut's Windlass
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have rule...
It is a time of revolts and revolutions, conflict and intrigue. New Crobuzon is being ripped apart from without and within. War with the shadowy city-state of Tesh and riot...
The Mensch with No Name
Edward M Erdelac
The Merkabah Rider continues his journey across the American Southwest of 1880 in search of the renegade teacher who destroyed his mystic Jewish order in the second volume ...
The Shadow Conspiracy
1816, the year without a summer. A group of geniuses descended on Geneva and, in an attempt to save the body and mind of Lord Byron, perform dreadful and forbidden experime...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: