If any of you, ever, have read my past articles then it is not even a shadow of a secret that I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher.
He writes the way I wish, hope, and fervently dream to one day be able achieve. He’s known for one continuing saga in particular that I wrote a FOUR PART series of articles for, called The Dresden Files. (Think Detective story meets wizards).
Plus, he also wrote a six-part series called The Codex Alera. (Think Roman Centurions meets Pokemon).
And through a wonderful San Diego Comic Con twist of fate (and just a little bit of frantic running by yours truly) I came into possession of the newest book by Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
Its the first part in a new series called The Cinder Spires, and I read the whole baby as quick as I could, and I’m going to tell you my thoughts in as Spoiler-Free a way as I can. But first, let me clarify some stuff for any of you not in the know. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is in a Steampunk setting. Steampunk is basically impossibly futuristic technology smack dab in the middle of a Victorian-like past.
So people dress like this:
Fly around in stuff like this:
But still act like this:
Okay, got all that? Good. Butcher takes this setting, and then adds his own spin to it. In the world of The Aeronaut’s Windlass the technology is based around magic crystals that can do a huge amount of things. From levitation to energy blasts to force fields to even just generating light. Everyone lives in cities, referred to as “Spires,” floating (I assume) about the earth below.
I assume they float, because I’m still not clear on what the Spires are doing. From what I gathered reading, thousands of years ago, the surface of the earth became extremely hostile to human life, forcing them all to live in the Spires. These first people were made up of humans, “warriorborn,” and… cats. You read that last part right.
“Warriorborn” are actually a smaller percentage of the population. They are humans that apparently had lion DNA mixed in with them to make them stronger, faster, and tougher. They are slightly looked down upon because “polite society” and all that Victorianess.
The main characters are Captain Grimm, Gwendolyn Lancaster, Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster, Bridget Tagwynn, and Rowl. Out of all of these characters, Rowl is probably the character that will divide readers. I liked him a lot. But I can see how some readers would not feel the same way. His viewpoint is very different, because, well…
He’s a talking cat.
If that doesn’t turn you off to this story, than you are in a for a pretty good time! The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a fun popcorn read for the casual reader, with an extra dose of enjoyment for fans of Steampunk. And fans of cats, too. The action is described in excellent detail, which has always been a skill of Jim Butcher’s. The dialogue can feel stuffy at times, but then, that’s the point, so its perfect.
I have two quibbles, and the first one is a small personal one, in that the characters don’t feel solid in my head. I can’t picture them with ease, because his description of them is very quick. This feels like an author’s choice, done on purpose, letting the reader insert whichever face they want. I can respect that, so it doesn’t really affect my experience.
My second quibble is that I was never really surprised. The Aeronaut’s Windlass felt a little by the numbers at times. “Take Steampunk, add more Fantasy, add some heroes.” It felt at times that Jim Butcher was following a recipe, instead of innovating. Now, let me be the first to say that Butcher is excellent even when following a recipe, so it never hurts the story. But I’ve been shocked and amazed by other stories he’s written, where I set the book down, took a deep breath and had to process what happened.
Not so much for this story. It was masterfully written, and very well thought out, but didn’t quite hit as hard as it could. I was whelmed. Not overly, or under, but quite satisfyingly whelmed. I still highly recommend this book.
Pick it up when it goes on sale on September 29, 2015!