The Hod King is Bancroft’s best work so far; a novel that’s stunning in originality enhanced with suspenseful and exciting moments.
Before I start my review, I would like to mention that, if you need a detailed summary of the series so far as I did, check out www.bookseriesrecaps.com for their great plot overviews—tons of spoilers, of course—of both Senlin Ascends and Arm of the Sphinx. I finished reading Arm of the Sphinx in July 2017 and since then I’ve read and reviewed almost 200 novels. Saying that I needed a reread of the series or at least a memory refreshment is a massive understatement. A reread is always preferable but if you’re being crushed by your TBR tower—I know you are—and don’t have the time to reread the series at the moment, this website is your solution; without it, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate this book without rereading the entire series. For the sake of making this review as spoiler-free as possible, I’ll keep this review shorter than usual and there won’t be any in-world characters’ names mentioned.
“My sense of being, my identity, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t reside in my parts. It lives in my past, and in the continuity of my present thoughts, and in my hopes for the future. I’m more afraid of losing a memory than a limb.”
Good things come in threes. This doesn’t mean that The Hod King is the last book of the series; it’s the third installment of The Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft, and it’s easily my favorite volume in the series so far. Additionally, Bancroft integrates the rule of three cleverly by using three different storylines, three different main POV characters, and three climax sequences to provide a perilous journey imbued with powerful drama, heartwarming moments, and spectacular character development that constantly escalates to reach an explosive and bloody convergence in the last section of the book. Plus, the novel was so superbly paced that even when the narrative felt a bit experimental—few head-hopping in Part II—and unconventional, I was never bored and I was thoroughly entertained by Bancroft’s diabolical imagination.
“All I know is that, at the end of the day, dreams don’t matter, but neither does regret. We aren’t what we want or wish for. We are only what we do.”
The story takes place entirely in the ringdom of Pelphia and it continues immediately from where the second book left off. The three main characters of this installment have their own personal mission to accomplish in the ringdom. Considering that this is the penultimate installment of the series, I highly appreciate that Bancroft shows the result of the character’s development wonderfully. These characters have overcome a lot of ordeals to reach where they are now. Seeing how much the conflicts they’ve faced in the tower so far have shaped them was immensely satisfying, to say the least. None of the characters stayed the same as they were when first introduced, their interactions with each other were compelling, and I truly enjoyed the way Bancroft juggled these characters’ perspectives to create strong connectivity in the storyline even when the characters were separated from each other.
“In my experience, the men that lean hardest on their titles are the ones who did nothing to earn them. I loathe men whose greatest accomplishment was being born.”
This book is a treasure trove for quotes, and as always, Bancroft’s prose is enviable. The Hod King is beautifully written, it shows Bancroft at the top of his writing game so far—though it will most likely will be toppled by his next book—as he implemented a lot of resonating themes such as love, loyalty, family, rich vs poor, and the importance of memories. The setting of this series may be filled with wonder but the depletion of energy caused by the poison of hope continues to ravage the citizens of the tower; the poor suffer, and tyranny rules.
“A man may rot like an egg: His shell does not show it, but all that is within him has gone foul.”
The story, characters, themes, settings, and prose are all reasons why I loved every moment spent reading this emotionally gripping book. I thought the novelty of the world-building within the series would’ve been lost by now, but I was proven wrong repeatedly here. The Hod King is a marvel that stitches immersive fantasy escapism, pulse-pounding steampunk adventure, and accessible literary prose into one tremendously impactful penultimate volume. By improving upon all the incredible aspects of the previous installments and setting the cinematic set pieces in an apt stopping place, the arrival of the last book is pretty much almost guaranteed to carve The Books of Babel into the reader’s hall of fame for being one of the best literary fantasy series they will ever read. I’ll end this review by saying if you’re craving an original fantasy series and yet haven’t read this, fix that mistake now.
“I mean, who said music had to be such a serious thing? I find musicians who just plink through the notes like a music box to be horribly dull. Songs are emotional. It’s better to play sincere mistakes than lifeless perfection.”
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)