The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Reviewer: Jen Twimom
The Aeronaut’s Windlass follows a group of inexperienced, youthful soldiers who fate pairs with an honorable yet disgraced veteran, as they battle a powerful enemy on multiple fronts. Fighting along side this group is a pair of etherealists, individuals who are sensitive to the ether waves, giving each unique talents, but at the cost of eventual insanity. Additionally this world is home to clans of cats, who have the ability to communicate and are intelligent, yet mostly apathetic to the plight of humans. The protagonists live on Spire Albion, a closed off world that somehow hovers above the abandoned surface. Their enemy is Spire Aurora. We don’t have any clue how many Spires exist, or what is so foreboding about the surface below. All of this together makes for an extremely interesting world about which I long to know more.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass is it a monster of a title at over 600 pages, plus it’s a solid fantasy tale with a whole new world filled with unique and interesting aspects. This doesn’t lend itself to a quick read, and in fact, I spent two weeks getting through this title. You have to be committed to read it. I don’t want to make it sound like it was a chore to read, but it’s not fluff. I’m glad I made it past the first half, which was spent trying to learn all of the players and understand the constructs of the new world. In the end, however, I am glad I made the time.
Part of the reason the front half takes so long to get through is that there are numerous key characters, each sharing a portion of the story from his or her point of view. At first, I got a headache trying to note each character’s place in the world, along with his/her personality traits. But as the story progressed, I discerned amazing qualities about these characters that came out through his/her actions or, even better, I was able to infer after eavesdropping on his/her innermost thoughts as the character spent time pondering situations. The author showed rather than told, revealing truly remarkable characters who I grew to enjoy more and more as they developed and matured.
The other primary reason the book takes time to get into is that the world is new, and building it up takes time to do correctly. Mr. Butcher feeds the reader bits and chunks at a time, leaving it up to the reader to put it together. This leads to a rich, exciting setting with enough intricacies to help paint a detailed picture. Yet so much is left open and unanswered, allowing the opportunity for future growth and development over the course of multiple books. And a quick word about the book’s genre: although I’ve seen it marketed as steampunk – it is not. Steam technology, mostly in the form of steam engines, is only mentioned a dozen or so times. The science in the world of Cinder Spires is etheric: using the ether currents to power the airships and weapons. So I consider the title a fantasy, with bits of science fiction in the form of etherpunk!
Overall, The Aeronaut’s Windlass is an enjoyable story and interesting new fantasy. The story itself is complex, with a lot of strategy in play. I could see the chess pieces being moved into position, but I had to work to figure out what each move meant in the grand scheme. And even at this point, we are no where close to having all the answers. The primary characters are all unique and highly interesting. Each grew over the course of the book. I love how they are an ideal blend of personalities that together make a pretty impressive and nearly unstoppable force. Honest and hard working. Loyal to a fault. Clearly each holds an important role in the pending future. The story captivated me, and I sincerely expect that the next title won’t take so long to read now that I’ve been acclimated.
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Series: Cinder Spires #1
Genre: Fantasy, etherpunk
Format(s): hardcover (640 pages), e-book, audiobook
Book Source: Publisher
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinder Spires #1)