And my review of A Dance With Dragons has only a couple more "likes" than my review for the self-published gem, Senlin Ascends!
Wow. That was unexpected!
Senlin Ascends is one of the best reads I've had in ages. I decided to read it because one of the bloggers judging in my self-published fantasy contest had a very difficult time choosing between this title and another for the best of his bunch of 30 novels. In the end he went for the other book, which left me thinking that it was harsh luck to miss out by such a fine margin to a very different kind of story.
Anyway, I was dragged in and didn't escape until I'd finished two or three days later.
Don't read this book because you like mine. It's not like mine. It is, however, excellent.
For me Senlin's Ascent hits on pretty much every level (no pun intended).
It's the story of a man's literal ascent up the many tiers of the Tower of Babel, a series of bizarre ring-doms standing at the centre of a huge and varied empire. Senlin goes there on honeymoon armed with his expertise on the subject in hand, and finds the reality very different to what his reading has led him to expect. As with all journeys of consequence, Senlin's ascent has an impact on both the traveler and those encountered on his travels.
It has truly excellent prose. So many lines made me deeply jealous. Clever, literary, insightful lines that cut to the quick of the matter.
The story is compelling. It unfolds and unfolds. Because the characters are excellently drawn I cared very much about where it was all going.
The imagination is unbound and intriguing. This has a strong Jack Vance, Dying Earth vibe, mixed in with overtones of Kafka, but it's also very much its own thing with hope and defiance to offset the cynicism.
It starts rather gently and with a style you might find in many works of literary fiction but dark undertones build and so does the violence/action/excitement so that at the end it becomes a work that actually fits more closely to the kind of fantasy I've read a lot of recently (and remains an excellent read).
So, in short, this is just the sort of find I was hoping would come out of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO). A truly fine book that after 3 years has only managed to gather 50 ratings on Goodreads. It's a pity that it didn't make the final and l hope to read the book that beat it there, but I also hope it finds the audience it deserves and that this review will inspire some of you to give it a try!
It's free on Kindle Unlimited and reasonably priced otherwise. So take a punt.
You can go and 'like' my review on goodreads, if you like.
An index of my reviews.