The Aeronaut's Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
It is not often that a book leaves me speechless. As I sat down to write this review, I realized I was faced with doing something I don't do often.
I'm giving full stars to this book. 5/5
Outstanding start to the Cinder Spires series! This novel caught me by surprise. I expected a Harry Dresden reprise re-tooled into steampunk. No, this is something new from Jim Butcher - a real action/adventure! I loved it!
Before I go much further, let me say this: I am a die-hard Dresden fan. My husband is too. We read the books and then discuss everything our favorite wizard does. We are both eagerly awaiting Peace Talks. And we have on occasion made George R.R. Martin jokes regarding the wait for the new book.
Now, having said that, I am shoving Dresden aside to write this review. This new series is totally unlike Dresden and deserves a better chance than some have given it because they are butt-hurt about Peace Talks taking longer for Butcher to finish. These things take time. It will be finished when Butcher is ready for it to be finished. He had some upheaval in his personal life. Give the man a break. There will be no Harry until it's time. Relax. Be Zen. Preorder Shadowed Souls for a Dresden short story fix...and stop whining.
Things I loved about this book:
1. This is real action/adventure! It doesn't get bogged down in overly descriptive world-building at the cost of the action. I want less talk and more action -- more butt-kicking!! This book is definitely not short on well-paced, exciting action sequences. The entire last third of the book is an exciting, action-packed battle. I sat up most of the night finishing this book.
2. The world is described and revealed to readers as part of the action. The book jumps into the fray from the start and never stops building. There are no chapters of pure description to bog down the storyline. The world building and character development happens right along with the action. For me, this made the story flow so much better! It doesn't get bogged down in long, detailed paragraphs of background, but instead Butcher weaves the world and the characters in and around his story. As far as I'm concerned, this is by far the best book Butcher has ever written. The writing is tight and his descriptions are concise and well-suited to the action style. Butcher doesn't fall into the pit of spoon-feeding details or characterization to readers. He doesn't "over tell'' but instead lets the story tell the tale.
3. The characters evolve and change. It's not just action for the sake of story, but characterization as well. All of the main characters learn, change, and grow as a result of what they are going through in this first book.
4. The storyline doesn't get sidetracked into thinly veiled political rants, romance or any of the other distractions that kill most action books. Not once did I channel my inner-Elvis to sing "A little less talk a little more action'' inside my head as I read. The story stayed on-point from beginning to end without meandering down useless, distracting side paths. No gratuitous sex scenes or unnecessary romantic interludes. No rants about politics, society or mishmash like that. Don't get me wrong -- the characters do have emotions and there is some reference to sex (how could you have soldiers and a ship's crew without sex?), love, anger, revenge, etc....but it comes as necessary parts of the plot not distraction from it.
The basic premise: For centuries, humanity has lived in Spires towering for miles above the mist-covered, dangerous surface of the planet. In the air, people are safe from dangerous surface-dwellers. Within the Spires, aristocratic houses rule, developing technology, trading with other Spires, and building airships. The ships, used for trading and warfare, are held aloft by the power of ethric crystals. Ethrealists can manipulate the power of the crystals, but the effects of the energies warp their minds. Captain Grimm and his crew man the AMS Predator, a private, trading vessel. When Predator is damaged in an altercation with much larger airships, Grimm is approached by the Spireach of Albion. If Grimm will agree to complete a dangerous mission for Spire Albion, the Spireach will repair Grimm's ship. Grimm and his crew are soon swept into the war between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora. The war re-awakens dark monsters from the planet's surface, threatening all of humanity.
For Dresden fans, this is a departure from Butcher's usual writing style. There are no pop culture references, no wizard's magic, and no modern cop drama. Push Dresden aside and read this book for what it is. Don't lament that it isn't the Butcher you are used to reading. This is new, steampunk-y, swashbuckling, airship-riding Butcher. We will all get our Harry Dresden fix soon. In the meantime, enjoy Captain Grimm and his rag-tag crew. I know I did!!
This book is not 600+ pages of plodding description and narrative. It's an action-packed romp through a steampunk world of airships, monsters and war. I can't wait for the next book! (But I will very happily read Peace Talks while waiting......)