In his debut novel, Bancroft takes readers into a steampunk world revolving around the great attraction and mystery that is the Tower of Babel—a colossal structure rising up into the heavens that devours the unwary with intrigue and danger.
One such unwary is Thomas Senlin, a school headmaster from a small fishing village, whose rosy ideas of the Tower lead him to honeymoon there with his young bride, Marya. But the two villagers are unprepared for the "big city"—especially a city so capricious and indifferent as the Tower turns out to be. Thomas loses track of Marya before even making it inside the Tower's gargantuan walls, and from there he begins his desperate quest to find her within the Tower's heights. The naïve and awkward headmaster is thrust into a world of treachery, drugs, hedonism, art, theft, airships, political feuding, soul-numbing violence, and above all secrets—secrets that he begins to see form a whole and a clue to the Tower's true nature. Will Thomas be able to keep his soul as he learns the Tower's often deadly rules, or will he simply be one more person broken by the Tower? (The true import of Thomas' quest won't be found here—there's a sequel coming, naturally.) Through it all, Marya seems to drift just out of his grip—but in her place, Thomas painstakingly assembles a ragtag team of allies and friends, if friendship can ever be true in a place where loyalty is just another currency and the powers that be have placed a price on Thomas' head.
The lush setting holds the reader through a slow start, but once the plot gets going, it ticks along with the tight precision and artistry of a well-wound watch.