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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Thomas Senlin and his ragtag crew have been forced into a life of piracy. They are struggling to survive on the stolen airship they now call home and they're doing everything they can to rescue Marya, Senlin's lost wife. As it is, though, the Tower of Babel is proving just as hard to get back into as it was to escape. They have no other choice but to find the Sphinx, a legendary figure of the Tower. Asking the Sphinx for help always comes with a price and Senlin knows that debts are never quite what they seem at the Tower of Babel. Time is running out and Senlin must choose between his wife, his friends, and his freedom.
I'm so glad NetGalley approved me for Arm of the Sphinx since I absolutely adored Senlin Ascends. In my opinion, this sequel is actually better than book one - that doesn't usually happen, but Bancroft totally pulls it off. Arm of the Sphinx is just as unique and imaginative as Senlin Ascends. The author's world building blew me away. Not that I'd really want to (considering other more pleasant alternatives), but after reading the first two books in this series I feel like I could travel to the Tower and get sucked into its world (and perhaps never find my way out again). We get to learn quite a bit more of the Tower, the Ringdoms, and their inhabitants in this installment. By the way, my favorite set pieces are the Golden Zoo and the Bottomless Library (the librarian is a cat, how awesome is that!).
As masterful as Bancroft's skill at world building is, he also does a marvelous job of further fleshing out or cast of characters. Thomas Senlin has had one of the best personal journey's I've read in quite some time and that certainly holds true in the sequel. However, here we get to delve into the lives of Senlin's crew - I particularly liked Edith who now has a mechanical arm (Senlin originally met her in the Parlor in the previous book) and Iren who was once a bouncer in a shady Ringdom criminal underworld. I don't want to spoil the Sphinx (the supplier of Edith's new arm), but I will say that the story really begins to move from fantasy steampunk to a little more sci-fi when we meet that mysterious living legend.
Finally, I want to mention a couple of my issues with the previous book - Marya and the pacing. In book one, we don't know much about Marya aside from what Senlin tells us -and that's largely the same here. However, we do get to see his hallucinations of her, a side effect that still hasn't worn off from getting gassed. We see how hard these are on him, since her behavior and attitude are nothing like he he knows her to be (at times I couldn't help but think of Sam's visions of Lucifer in Supernatural after he was got out of the Cage). I'm looking forward to getting to know more about Marya on a personal level. In regards to the pacing, the issues that I had with the previous installment have been resolved. The book is still just as big, but pacing wise everything flows very well from scene to scene. I didn't want to take my eyes of the page, just in case I would accidentally miss something brilliant.
Overall, Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel #2) by Josiah Bancroft is an absolutely brilliant work of steampunk fantasy sci-fi. This series just keeps getting better and I'm pretty convinced that the author must be a genius. His world building and character development is topnotch and his storytelling skills are absolutely riveting. If you haven't already started in on this series, I can't recommend it enough - I think Arm of the Sphinx is easily going to be one my favorite reads of 2018. Like The Great Library series by Rachel Caine, High-Rise by J.G. Ballard, and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock, then you absolutely need to pick up The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft. I'm dying to see where Senlin's story will take us in book three, The Hod King!
Thanks again, NetGalley!