Thursday, September 20, 2018

Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx (Books of Babel #2) by Josiah Bancroft
Orbit, 2018
Paperback. 448 pages.

About Arm of the Sphinx:
"The second book in the word-of-mouth phenomenon fantasy series about one man's dangerous journey through a labyrinthine world. 

The Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to reenter as it was to break out of. Forced into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew are struggling to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt to rescue Senlin's lost wife continues. Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx never comes cheaply, and as Senlin knows, debts aren't always what they seem in the Tower of Babel. 
Time is running out, and now Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife. Does anyone truly escape the Tower?"

Earlier this year I read and enormously enjoyed Senlin Ascends, the first book in the Books of Babel series. Arm of the Sphinx came out in February and I've had a copy since then, but for some reason I just kept wanting to wait for the 'right moment' to jump back into this exciting world and it took me until now to do so.

Arm of the Sphinx is just as imaginative and unpredictable as Senlin Ascends, though this installment seemed to sort of take a breath and slow down a bit with a much slower pace. The story continues with Thomas Senlin, now Captain Tom Mudd, Edith, Iren, Adam, and Voleta as our main players. This ragtag bunch make quite a crew to captain a pirate airship, but somehow they make it work. I enjoyed seeing how the various relationships developed among the characters, and I was particularly impressed with how well Bancroft included all of the characters equally. We didn't visit quite as many places as we did in the first book and there wasn't quite as much to keep me engaged as the first book as well, but I'll get into the later.

Thomas is constantly evolving in this book and growing in ways that are both exciting and also somewhat saddening as he learns more about his new life and the realistic outlook of his future. I've enjoyed watching Thomas continue to build on his street smarts and learn to not be quite so trusting of those around him. He realizes now that being nice and courteous just isn't always an option, and although it's sad to see this disillusionment, it's encouraging to see him pick up on these skills. I don't really want to go into too much detail on the other characters at this point because I think a lot of the intrigue and storytelling is best left to explore yourself.

Although I had a fun time reading this book, there was just something lacking, some sort of magic component that the first book had that this one didn't. It's hard to describe because this was still a really exciting book with plenty of quirkiness, but I found myself almost bored at various points. Bancroft writes these books with a rather carefree, wandering style that occasionally goes into tangents or simply continues on with scenes in a rather casual, matter-of-fact tone. While I love this style at most times and loved it in the first book, it didn't feel as though it was executed quite as well in this book. I lost interest more than a few times and felt that some scenes dragged just a bit too long.

I also found the settings in this book not as interesting or expansive as in the first book, although this could just be something unique to me. I didn't really get very interested in this book until about halfway through when the crew lands is in the Silk Gardens and continue on their adventures. I didn't enjoy the actions scene much in this book and found myself losing interest in many of them--the dialogue and less intense scenes seem to be where Bancroft really excels.

All that being said, I can't deny that I enjoyed this book and really look forward to seeing where this story continues. Overall, I've still given Arm of the Sphinx four stars! If you loved the first book, I highly recommend you pick this one up--I've seen plenty of rave reviews for it--because even if it's not as good as the first, it's still a great book with a fascinating storyline.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received a copy of Arm of the Sphinx courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

1 comment:

  1. I've also had a copy for months and I feel bad that I haven't read it yet. But I am curious, and I loved the way the last book ended, so I'm sure I'll read it at some point.