Written in 2013 by Josiah Bancroft, Senlin Ascends tells the story of Thomas Senlin who, while vacationing at the site of the biblical Tower Of Babel with his wife Marya, finds himself thrown into a labyrinth of chaos, magic, and obscurity, as he tries to locate his wife and get them both to safety.
Coming up against betrayal, warring tyrants, terrifying flying fortresses, deadly assassins, and numerous otherworldly creatures, Senlin must make his way through the numerous ‘kingdoms’ that make up the mythical tower – embarking on a journey that will transform the quiet, retiring school headmaster into a hero of old.
If you love fantasy fiction and are looking for a story in the same vein as Senlin Ascends, then you might enjoy The Green Bone Saga, The Blacktongue Thief, or The Shadow Of The Gods – part of the Bloodsworn Saga by John Gwynne.
For more suggestions, why not check out our list of 5 books to read after Senlin Ascends?
Themes Within Senlin Ascends
Of course, a book like Senlin Ascends doesn’t rise to the ranks of the best sellers list without having something to shout about, and there are many key themes within the novel (and the wider saga) that really grab readers and make them want to engage further.
One major theme within Senlin Ascends is Thomas Senlin’s view of humanity, the faith he has in himself, and the human race at large.
As he ventures deeper into the world of the Tower of Babel, he sees the impact that the tower has on his fellow humans – driving them further into depravity, violence, selfishness, and pettiness.
It is through this journey, and the people he encounters along the way, that he reconnects with his own emotions, as well as his shortcomings, and opens up many questions within him as to the notions of human redemption and kindness.
In finding his wife, and confronting the depraved characters within the Tower, Senlin discovers himself for the first time – realizing not only what feats of heroism he is capable of when the situation calls for it, but also the feats of compassion.
Another related theme is the question of whether a ‘good’ man can survive and maintain his sense of self in a world that has totally abandoned its morals.
Senlin himself is a dour, somewhat naive man with a good heart, but as he is constantly attacked, betrayed, and stabbed in the back by the miscreants in the Tower, he comes to question his own place in the world, and the man he has become.
5 Books Similar To Senlin Ascends
Now that you know a little more about Senlin Ascends, and the world that Josiah Bancroft has tried to portray, we can now discuss some other novels within the fantasy fiction genre that readers might appreciate.
Fantasy is obviously a diverse and complex genre, with many facets to explore (If you like fantasy, check out Books Like Name Of The Wind and other similar titles). However, all of these books have the same combination of history and fantasy – not to mention focusing deeply on the hero’s journey, a key theory within storytelling that is at the very heart of what fantasy really is.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our top picks!
Centered around the Kaul family crime syndicate – the wielders of powerful jade amulets that grant them superhuman abilities – The Green Bone Saga explores issues of legacy and modernity on the island of Kekon, where a nation of once proud warriors have become agents of commerce, business, and betrayal.
In her trilogy, Fonda Lee captures many of the same themes of Senlin Ascends, focusing on the lives of real people tasked with impossible odds, who must examine their established place in the world and rise to the hardest challenge of all: changing themselves for the better.
- A varied cast of characters
- Fresh and interesting concept
- Lack of ‘closure’ you would expect in fiction
Themes: Family, good & evil, humanity, and power.
Following the exploits of trained thief Kinch Na Shannack, The Blacktongue Thief sees the antihero come up against the past and the future – with his criminal past chasing him in the form of debts to the Takers Guild, and his future in question, as he unwittingly teams up with a knight (Galva) and embarks upon a quest that will change them both.
As in Senlin Ascends, The Blacktongue Thief tackles ideas of humanity, legacy, and morality, and offers a look at an honorable character (Galva), and a dishonorable one (Kinch) as they are thrust into a situation where concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are luxuries neither can afford.
Once again we have the notion of personal change, and in this novel, Buehlman perfectly captures the fragility of the ‘self’, and how we often need to change – even if we don’t want to.
- Punchy dialogue
- Fresh, unusual action scenes
- Well paced
- Strong world-building
- Could be thematically deeper
Themes: Humanity, legacy, and morality.
Known for his masterful work within the fantasy genre, John Gwynne expertly crafts a fragile and battle-ravaged world in The Shadow of the Gods – showing how disparate and unheroic characters are forced to take a stand and fight for their share in a world quickly falling back under the control of a pantheon of Norse-inspired gods.
Following the exploits of a huntress, a noblewoman, and a bloody mercenary, The Shadow of the Gods takes what you think you know about fantasy and turns it on its head – offering a fresh take on the idea of what makes a hero, and how well that title holds under the immense pressure of a cruel world.
- Plenty of action
- Well written
- A fresh take on Norse Mythology
- The plot is a slow burn
Themes: Good vs evil, what makes a ‘hero’, and flawed humanity.
In Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld, we are confronted by Clay Cooper and his once-feared band of mercenaries, who, after approaching the twilight of their careers, find themselves once more drawn into the murky world of betrayal and murder that they once frequented gladly.
Thrown onto a path of unlikely heroism, the former mercenaries must locate the daughter of an old friend – a quest that will see them carve out a new legacy built on a thing that always eluded them: honor.
This novel once more tackles the notion of the unlikely hero and the way that people are forced to change and adapt as they progress through life. It also tackles legacy, and what it means to do some good after a life of being bad.
- High stakes
- Larger-than-life characters
- Gripping action sequences
- A genuine sense of peril
- Is guilty of large exposition early on
Themes: Legacy, morality, and changing for the better.
Following the exploits of Tormalin the Oathless – a brutal antihero with a checkered past – The Ninth Rain shows us the last dying days of the Eboran empire.
However, when an eccentric aristocrat arrives with a strange proposition, Tormalin finds himself thrown into a world of sacrifice and heroism, as he is teamed with other wayward misfits, and tasked with saving the flailing empire from an even greater threat: the Jure’lia.
The Ninth Rain explores the idea of societal apathy, and how through only the pursuit of honor and ‘good’ can a nation truly thrive.
Very topical and poignant, this story shows people abandoned by a failed regime, who despite their own flaws and past failings, must band together to make real change, and save the world they live in from a much worse threat.
- The top-notch world-building
- Unique, real characters
- Gripping narrative style
- Could benefit from illustrations
Themes: Societal solidarity, the importance of change, and the unheroic becoming the hero.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about ‘Senlin Ascends’ by Josiah Bancroft, and our picks of the best similarly themed novels on the market!
It’s true that the fantasy fiction genre is one of the most popular and multifaceted throughout the world, and there are numerous different routes that authors can take to communicate their narratives to the audience.
However, for those seeking something similar to Bancroft’s work, these are certainly some of the best ones out there! Why not give some of them a try? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ‘Senlin Ascends’ Worth Reading?
As with any book, it is always worth trying to engage with the material, as you never know what you might learn.
However, in addition to this, Senlin Ascends is considered to be one of the best modern fantasy novels on the market today, so fans of the genre should definitely check it out.
Is ‘Senlin Ascends’ A Series?
Senlin Ascends is in fact the first in a series of books by Josiah Bancroft. The series itself is called The Books of Babel – and follows the exploits of Senlin, and the other people destined to wind up in the mysterious tower.
- 20 Must-Read Genre-Blending Literary Fiction Books - May 26, 2023
- 32 Gripping Epic Fantasy Books To Transport You To Another World - May 26, 2023
- 12 Books Like Red, White, And Royal Blue You Will Love - May 17, 2023