With my writing obligations of late, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reading obligations. I’m still reading, however and number two on my 2017 Reading Challenge list, is the category, “a book published last year.” Technically speaking, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher, was published two years ago, but I decided to stretch things a little for this book.
I’ve never read any of Jim Butcher’s books before this one, though I know he has two other ongoing series. My book club has often talked about his books, so I was somewhat familiar with him already. This book joined my list because I went to my friends on Twitter and asked for a recommendation for a book in the steampunk sub-genre, something I’d never read before. This book was recommended, and I am so glad I picked it up. I loved this book!
I love this quote on the back cover by David Weber, which sums the book up very nicely:
It’s steampunk meets magic with a dose of sci-fi for seasoning.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first book of The Cinder Spires, a new series by Jim Butcher. It features a Captain Grimm, formerly of the Fleet of Spire Albion. He now captains his own private vessel, working as a privateer, attacking and disrupting trade vessels of rival spires. His ship, however, is something special. It’s a fascinating combination of an old time sailing ship and a zeppelin style airship, but powered by special crystals rather than steam engines or wind. Though both are also possible in addition to the crystals.
The story opens with an amazing air battle scene between Captain Grimm’s Predator and a much larger trade vessel, and then an even larger battle cruiser. Butcher expertly draws the reader in and sets the story up to be an incredibly fun read. I was not disappointed.
Butcher’s action scenes have a cinematic feel, bringing the reader right into the action. So much so that I felt like I was right in the middle of it, seeing the action, feeling the wind on my face, watching the expressions of the characters change as they respond to what’s happening. There is one scene in particular that I will likely never forget. I’d share it, but I don’t want to spoil anything. You’ll just have to read the book!
The characters in this book are delightfully complex. Besides Captain Grimm, there is Benedict Sorellin, a warriorborn (what seems to be some sort of human and animal hybrid), his cousin, the Lady Gwendolyn Lancaster, a pair of etherealists who are very likely insane, and Bridget Tagwyn, a young woman of the lesser nobility. This group of mismatched individuals are sent on a mission to save the spire from the invading force of a rival spire.
Even the villains are fun to read. The rival armies are filled with honorable officers, some I can even sympathize with. The main villain at the heart of the worst treachery is great. She’s fabulously wicked, and someone I loved to hate. I am still intrigued by her, and want to know more about her motivations.
And let’s not forget one other significant member of the party of heroes, Rowl of the Silent Paws. Rowl is a cat, to whom the Lady Tagwyn (known to Rowl as Littlemouse) belongs. The relationship between cats and humans in this story is complicated. And absolutely wonderful. The cats in this story are brilliantly written and add an extra layer of fun.
This book is a truly great read. And, oh! What an ending! I look forward with great anticipation to the next book! In the meantime, I’m going to have to look into the other series written by Jim Butcher.