I did not even read the book description when I saw Jim Butcher had a new book out. Having read all his Dresden series and his short stories, I know that if he wrote it, I will like it. I need no persuasion. The Aeronaut’s Windlass, is something new for Butcher fans, though. It is not set on Earth, or if it is, it’s in a far distant earth that bears no resemblance to today other than it is populated by humans and cats.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first in a new series of books called The Cinder Spires. It has many of the common elements of a fantasy adventure series, a band of braver than they know heroes whose youthful inexperience carries the day through sheer courage and cussedness. There’s Gwen, the daughter of the most powerful House in Albion, the family who makes the crystals that power the great airships. There’s Benedict, her cousin, warriorborn, a human/hunter hybrid. There’s Bridget from a House that has fallen into poverty and is nearing extinction, the only one of her generation, untried, untaught, but drafted into this war with her cat Rowl, a prince of the feline kingdom. Together with Grimm, captain of the airship Predator, his daring crew and two aetherialists, Ferrus and Folly, they strive to save the day for their Spire, which has been attacked without warning by another Spire.
Of course, there is an evil genius, perhaps more than one. There are also the enemy marines whose military training and sense of honor makes them feel bad about the things they do, but does not stop them from doing them.
So, yes, it follows the formula of fantasy adventure, but on that structure hangs an inventive and exciting new world, one where great naval battles are fought in the air by ships that sail the winds and the ether, powered by crystals and ethernet webbing. It’s fascinating and full of a new steampunk technology, and alternative course of development from our own, where people are terrified of the surface of the planet, where only death and doom awake, whose civilizations are built on spires and no one sees the free and open sky except for the aeronauts.
I am eager for the second in the series and thrilled to see Jim Butcher is still hard at work writing for us. Those who are Dresden fans will probably like Grimm who has a similar no-nonsense core of competency and determination, though he has no superpower other than his skill at tactics and strategy. There is a lot of adventure, lots of battles and opportunities for our heroes to show what they are made of while facing all sorts of enemies and monsters. The new technology is fascination and is introduced gradually, so the book is about a story, not new vocabulary. If you like fantasy adventure, you should definitely check out The Aeronaut’s Windlass.