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Book Review, Jim Butcher, The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1)

November 6, 2015

I have long been a reader of Jim Butcher’s books (The Dresden Files, Codex Alera), and was excited to hear that he has been working on a new steampunk series. The Cinder Spires series starts with The Aeronaut’s Windlass (published September 29, 2015), which takes place far into the future in a world where humanity was forced to abandon the earth’s surface for a series of constructed “spires” that range far into the skies. The world is vaguely future-Victorian, with airships and a class-based social structure. Without giving away too much, the book focuses on an emerging conflict between the spires (and, no surprise, the sense that there may be larger forces at work).

So here’s my caveat. While I am all in favor of the steampunk genre being incredibly expansive, I tend to like my steampunk ensconced within the Victorian era, or (as with something like Kate Locke’s The Immortal Empire series) a closely Victorian-inspired alternate universe. So Butcher’s book didn’t quite do it for me as steampunk, despite the airships and noble houses. The book started out incredibly slowly, and if it wasn’t for the talking cats, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I also wonder if the perspective may have been an issue—what holds the Dresden series together, for example, is Harry’s first-person snark. The constantly shifting POVs in this book got old fast, as did the overly-detailed airship battle descriptions. The plot did pick up enough for me to give it three stars on Goodreads (which in my personal ranking system is “decent but nothing to squee about”). The vibe was a sort of mashup between Terry Pratchett and George R.R. Martin (hell, even “Earth: Final Conflict” if you count the gauntlets), so if that is your cup of tea by all means go for it!

Will I pick up the next book? Yes, but thus far this series has turned out to be something I can pick up and put down at random, rather than the all-night-read-until-your-eyes-burn-fest that Butcher’s other books have been for me.

Source: Copy from my public library


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  1. Jim Butcher’s an Author on my to read list. I’ve heard good things about the Dresden files. Would you recommend starting there?

    • Both the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera series are great places to start with Butcher’s books…I enjoyed both series very much!

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