Book Reviews: August 2021 Reads

Finally finishing up some to-reads on my long list before we approach my favourite month of all-time. Have a spooky read to recommend? Please let me know and I’ll be eternally grateful. x

Senlin Ascends (Josiah Bancroft, 2013)

Senlin Ascends Novel

The blackboard rattled and rocked on its feet, shaken by Senlin’s emphatic jots. “Instinct is the fuel that fires the engine of civilization. Generations have labored to build and perfect the engine. Each of you, I hope, will spend your life working to preserve it. Because without it, we would be dangerous beasts.”

During their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife Marya to the crowds. His only hope of finding her may just be to ascend the Tower, but the mild-mannered headmaster soon learns that the climb will take every inch of wit and mettle he can gather.

From the first moment he steps in the playhouse, it becomes clear that the Tower is the star of Senlin Ascends. The novel shines in its inventive world building, introducing a fascinating universe that not only stretches skywards, but is anchored by bizarre sets of rules.

Against the wondrous backdrop, most characters are just as well written. It is interesting to see how the Tower corrupts the people caught in its workings, while Senlin struggles to hold onto his morality as he steps out of his shell for the eventual rescue mission.

This is very much a coming-of-age story despite Senlin being past his teenage years. There is much to love about the sheer creativity, if only bogged down by a plodding pace and Marya’s paperthin characterisation.

Some Danger Involved (Will Thomas, 2004)

Some Danger Involved Novel

“A Bible-quoting group of killers. I don’t like it,” Barker rumbled, his chin buried in his coat. “Murder and faith make nasty bedfellows.”

A man resembling Jesus is found murdered by crucifixion in London. Prominent men from the Jewish community decide to approach private detective Cyrus Barker to uncover the killer behind the ostensible anti-Semitic act. In Barker’s employ is a new assistant Thomas Llewyn, whose mission may just be more dangerous than the ad implied.

Mirroring Holmes and Watson, the duo at the centre of Some Danger Involved will draw Sherlockians in with the dynamics of their budding friendship. While their little crime adventure may not take shocking turns, it still offers a good amount of mystery and action.

What bothered me however were the personalities. Granted that the traits make them unique characters. But cultural references from the Oriental to the French feel caricatural at times, as though the inclusion had been noncommittal.

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