This review does not contain spoilers! Please keep them out of the comments as well.
Title: Arm of the Sphinx
Author: Josiah Bancroft
I am of the belief that I could merely post my favorite quotes, and they would be reason to demonstrate why I rate Bancroft’s work so highly. I could, but I won’t. They will, however, be sprinkled throughout. None are spoilers, but the quotes do touch upon the crux of several themes with which Bancroft’s Thomas Senlin battles.
“History is a love letter to tyrants written in the blood of the overrun, the forgotten, the expunged!” – Josiah Bancroft Arm of the Sphinx
The same character who spoke the above also stated:
“What good does it do to punish a man who so stubbornly punishes himself?”- Josiah Bancroft, Arm of the Sphinx
In both cases, the character showed a unique ability to see beyond the superficial. It’s a skill which the Senlin struggles with like many of the Tower’s residents, but while most seem to predict the cruel intentions they’ve grown to expect, Senlin remains – remarkably at some points – optimistic of the good in other people.
More than in the previous book, he understands this as a problem. The Tower of Babel is not elsewhere. He does not know these people. They have no reason to react kindly to him or hold to the decorum to which he is accustomed. His growth bridges the horrors of the Tower with the fortitude of its inhabitants. Not everyone works the fires, but they’re all affected by the results.
From the first page of the first book, the Tower exists as character and setting. Any direct acknowledgement came from its inhabitants. While some crying foul existed, Senlin aims his frustrations at the actors rather than the Tower – until:
“Because the Tower has asked…” – Josiah Bancroft, Arm of the Sphinx
Perhaps because he has become an actor at this point. Not to be confused with those in the Parlor, but an actor as in the individual exercising the Tower’s influence (and its moral ambiguity if not downright cruelty) outward.
If this series doesn’t wind up in at least one English course in every college’s English department, I’ll be shocked. The prose is gorgeous. Every line maintains the pacing and mood, drawing the reader further into the Tower.
It will be a hard wait for the next one.