Originally posted 2015-10-07 12:00:19.
Title: The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Published: 29 September, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy: Steampunk Fantasy
Series: The Cinder Spires, Volume One
Kid Friendly Rating: Teenagers, 14-15 at the earliest. Violence and graphic depictions of violence, but without extreme language
Synopsis: Spire Albion finds herself and all of her citizens drawn into a war with Spire Auroran, and Skyship Captain Grimm, along with a motley crew of other folks, even a cat, find themselves at the middle of it all. Grimm’s ship, the Predator, is heavily damaged in a firefight and limps home to Spire Albion. Grimm, a privateer in the service of Albion, cuts a deal to get Predator repaired, and finds himself, a once-disgraced Albion Navy Officer drafted to undertake, along with a ragtag crew of green recruits, a martial artist, a mostly-mad etherealist and his mostly-mad apprentice, and a Prince of Cats (yes, I said and meant cats) a mission to find Auroran infiltrators.
As always, Butcher’s combat scenes are amazingly well done, from airship battles and close quarters hand to hand combat, to firefights in the claustrophobic streets of the Spire. His characters have great depth, drawing you in to care about what happens to Grimm, the crew of the Predator, Gwendolyn Lancaster (scion of a wealthy Albion house), Bridget Tagwynn (the only daughter of an Albion house in disgrace), Benedict (a savage and powerful warrior, cousing to Gwendolyn), Rowl (prince and son of the head of a clan of cats), Ferus the Etherealist, and Ferus’s apprentice, Folly, who can only talk to the crystal used to power the various devices of the world of the Cinder Spires.
His attention to detail for the technology, from beam emitter gauntlets that overheat from overuse, to how the airships stay aloft and battle one another, fuels the minutiae of the story while the reader is swept up into contemplations of the nature and origin of the world the characters inhabit. Even his villain is painted in such perfectly broad strokes so as to create her own shadows that make you wonder about just what made this woman into what she is.
Final Thoughts: Not just because I am a Butcher fan, but read this. You can hate the Dresden Files (though why you would, I do not know!) and his Codex Alera series, but this first novel in a new series is so much beyond what has come before. He has not taken a crappy story, glued some gears on it and called it Steampunk Fantasy. His creation of a new world along with its belief systems, culture, and even its foibles and follies makes this such a worthy read.
Have you read this book? Give us your thoughts!