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Review Part II: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Review Part II: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher published on 5 Comments on Review Part II: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

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My partner’s excellent review went up yesterday. We both read the book, and we can’t waste a good second opinion. We can’t even waste an average second opinion.

I’ve always enjoyed the aesthetics created by Steampunk. It lends itself to cosplay and fun parties.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass certainly has that or a similar aesthetic, and from what I’ve seen, the glorious cosplay has already begun. but I would argue that this book isn’t necessarily Steampunk, or at least not any more Steampunk than Final Fantasy VI is.

I would argue that this book is a sort of “Crystalpunk.” (If I coined that, someone should mention me on Wikipedia some day). Crystal-powered technology, as it exists in The Cinder Spires, is unique. Crystals directly power everything from weaponry to magic to airships. Some crystals are a thousand years old. They come in all sorts of differing strengths. Some are large, some small. Some flawless, some junk. There is an entire industry around the creation and sale of these crystals, and a natural pecking order for who gets which ones and for what price. It is a clean technology, though the creation process–crystals “grown” in vats, left for even a thousand years to complete the growth–there might be some sort of un-noted runoff.

It is the creation of this sort of background economic aspect that makes the world of The Cinder Spires series seem more realistic. This sort of description and thought is what separates the engaging stories from the ones that are not.

The aesthetics of the series are somewhat Victorian in nature, though we have some new stuff here, too. We deal with lots of tea drinking and maritime creaky ropes and ships, but then we have these spires, many miles tall and two miles across, housing hundreds of thousands of people. Each spire acts almost like a country. The spires trade with one another, go to war against one another, have treaties and visiting dignitaries and are known for different specialties. Sky pirates attack ships traveling between them. The spires have standing armies and fleets of military vessels. And the maritime feel of this is a hell of a lot of fun. This is where a reader might feel like they wandered out of Jim Butcher and into Patrick O’Brian territory.

This book is more Codex Alera than Dresden Files, but it isn’t either one of those. The first book here takes its time to build a world, but also throws us into a story. We have kidnappings, explosions, and invasions. Magical combat, aerial combat, hand-to-hand combat. We learn a bit about living above the ground. Nobody lives on the ground, or at least nobody as far as we know. This is an entire world standing above the earth; there are creatures down there, creatures in the sky. There are things everywhere that might want to gobble the humans up.

We have some fun characters: Gwendolyn, the spunky, tactless upper-class soldier; Grimm, the stoic, mysterious Captain of the airship Predator; Bridget, the lower-class, strong, country-girl-in-the-big-city soldier; Rowl, a prince among cats; Folly, an eccentric etherialist (though all etherialists are eccentric) with some witty lines and disruptive magic; Benedict, the warriorborn cousin of Gwendolyn, perhaps part-cat, or just cat-like.

There are several villains, some revealed and some not. Cavendish reminds me a bit of Effie Trinket meets Dolores Umbridge. She’s obsessive-compulsive, dresses like a cupcake, and has a thing for manners. Please be polite to her. Or die painfully. We also have a few backstabbers, some wonky lopsided warriorborn sadists, opposing forces attempting to disrupt harmony. There are ravenous spider-like beings from the ground that pose a danger to all who live above. There is a greater evil, one we know only a bit about, a puppet-master of sorts.

Also, talking cats. Cats with their own culture, their own hierarchy, their own way of showing disdain and respect. It is really hard to beat talking cats, honestly. The rest is gravy.

This book opens a window into a new world, and it does it well. It gives us heroes to root for, villains to want to stab with a fork, and action to take our breaths away.

The book can be purchased at Amazon or probably just about anywhere books are sold.

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher published on 2 Comments on Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

aeronaut's windlass

This is the first in a new series by the author of the beloved (fanatically so, by many) Dresden Files, and the fact this is the twenty-third (published) novel by the author is evident by the deft story-telling, the elegant characterization, and the delicacy in building a world — and a mystery — that could endure for nine books. Butcher is a Master Builder, as is revealed in the Dresden Files, which is more like a canon of repeated themes growing ever more complex with each book than it is a traditional, plodding series. From here on out, I will decline to mention the Dresden Files, as this book is good enough and different enough to merit her own review without being overshadowed by her bossy and loud big brother.

The characters are carefully crafted. I like most of the characters in Cinder Spires. I’m intrigued by Benedict, his origin, and why Rowl calls him half-souled (except when he was injured badly). I’m intrigued by the Spirearch, and I’m looking forward to whatever book will really open up the politics — Aeronaut’s Windlass was an adventure story with some intrigue, but the stiff society is ripe for back-stabbing politics. I’m excited.

But mostly I love Folly. Butcher has really displayed his talent for writing with her. She is a singular character, and no once does he falter in his depiction of her. For all her quirks, she has an inherent consistency that a lot of authors can’t grasp the importance of. I can’t wait to learn more about her, and see where she goes.

Yes, the Folly in the book is really as adorable as Mandie Reese's Folly.
Yes, the Folly in the book is really as adorable as Mandie Reese’s Folly.

The pace is just right. Aeronaut’s Windlass is long without being bloated. A lot of authors choose to separate large works into different parts (or acts), but because the entire book (minus the prologue) takes place within a limited amount of time, Butcher chose instead to let the story momentum build without unnecessary breaks. Part of this was helped by the existence of multiple viewpoint characters. Butcher blends all of these characters together, manages to give them different voices, and allows them all to shine — even a cat (especially the cat). They drive the story. Not that this book was in any way character-driven: they drove the story the way Warboys drive, the way Furiosa drives. My favorites are Ferus, Folly, and Rowl, but I do like all of them.

The book is full of action. Butcher has a clear eye for action detail, so when there are battles, it is very apparent what is happening. And it’s almost terrifying. Ship battles are very different from fire fights or intense one-on-one. Butcher wrote them masterfully. His talent honestly can’t be quantified, because this is not simply a novel about naval battles – it’s a fantasy novel, and Butcher created (in his head, at least, even though it seems so real) his own technology, the drawbacks to the technology. He goes into detail about the crystals. There is a moment in which two characters are attempting a repair, and the language gets so organically technical that it’s hard to believe that they don’t work this way in our world.

There are enough points of commonality between this series and Dresden Files to drive me crazy. Look, I am not crazy. But there are a lot of similarities. There is a family named Astor (echoing Faith Astor), there is a spire named Aurora, and one of the main characters is named Gwendolyn Margaret Elizabeth. While those may be superficial grace notes, the MacGuffin is – not at all what I expected it to be, and it reminds me very much of a couple objects Harry had in his lab. It’s honestly enough to make me suspicious. But if there is a connection, the pay-off won’t be for many years in the future.
I can wait.

It is not only an excellent, five-star book, but it is an excellent, five-star start to a series — an important distinction. As always, Butcher knows his creation well, and is able to layer in interesting tidbits that I have learned from past encounters with his books will grow into stunning twists and mysteries.

Aeronaut’s Windlass will be followed by The Olympian Affair.

The book can be purchased at Amazon or probably just about anywhere books are sold.
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Folly’s photo was taken by the talented Andrea Rexrode Gonzales. She has a ton of photographs from the Cinder Spires cosplay at Dragon*Con.

You may recognize Mandie Reese from her work as Murphy for Dresden Files Fan Films.

Jim Butcher Interview: Dragon*Con 2015

Jim Butcher Interview: Dragon*Con 2015 published on 4 Comments on Jim Butcher Interview: Dragon*Con 2015

Jim Butcher seems delighted to find so many of his fans in the room at 10am on a Sunday morning. The moderator is really charming!

GENERAL INFO

1) The Cinder Spires is potentially nine books long.

2) He’s been wanting to write naval combat battles since he saw Star Trek II. (As someone who has read the book — you can tell he loves it. The action scenes are incredible.)

3) Aeronaut’s Windlass is the longest book he has ever written, and is just over 200,000 thousand words. The excitement he feels toward it really comes through here — you can tell he loved writing it.

NEW DRESDEN INFO!

1) “Cold Case” is a Molly novella, and details her first job as the Winter Lady. It’s a Molly/Ramirez team-up. It’s in Shadowed Souls, an anthology he edited. This might be the new name for Fierce. It’s a novella, woo hoo! The entire novella was written to the song “Gonna Make You Sweat”, and that will be funnier when we read it.

2) Dresden’s first day on “Jury Duty” will be published in Shawn Speakman’s anthology, Unbound.

3) Butters’s first mission as a Knight is being written right at this moment. The way Butters gets a call to action is he sees exclamation points over someone’s head. He doesn’t get a still small voice, he gets WOW.

4) The romance between Murphy and Harry was pretty inevitable from the first moment he tried to annoy her by opening the door for her. He never wanted to plan out the romance. He wanted the characters to grow into whatever was going to happen. Like, he didn’t know Susan was going to die awfully until he was writing it.

5) He sent chapter 14 of Skin Game to his beta readers, and his only feedback was gifs of people throwing over tables.

6) “If you were weird enough, you could get magic to do some really weird things.” One of the main duties of the Council is to make sure wizards don’t do crazy stuff — like take out ads in the Yellow Pages.

7) MOST of the Knights of the Cross pick up the Sword for a day, then put it down. There are a lot of Knights who died, also, doing the right thing. It’s meant to be a sacrifice, and some laid their life down.

8) I don’t understand why people are so skeptical that he planned this out — it’s obvious that he knows the major landmarks.

9) Mab was not the first Mab. Mab was the Winter Lady. Lea was her handmaiden, so when Mab got a power boost, so did Lea. The first Winter Queen died the last time things really went to hell in the Wizarding world. Just like they’re about to now. (I wonder who Molly’s handmaiden will be…?)

10) A funny guy stood up and said he’d tweeted Butcher after he finished the second Alera book, asking why he wrote the way he did, and Butcher tweeted back: “I need money, I need you now.”

11) Loki is not in Demonreach. There are no snakes dripping venom there, and Norse gods are literal. Several of the gods are pro wrestlers because you get much more worship as WWE than you do as a Greek god. This will be the subject of book 18, which I hope will be called Cut Man.

12) Lea will have a big part in Peace Talks.

13) Bob is sort of a mirror to whomever is holding him. The Sword will be way easier to misuse; it has less of an affect on regular human beings. It will be hell on wheels against the truly evil.

14) He’s writing the next book right now: “Poor Murphy.” (Yay!)

15) Basically, we’re spending the worst weekend of his year with Harry Dresden. He will be writing more after Mirror Mirror, when he establishes the parallel realities, and how much trouble he can get into with them.

16) He will not delve too deeply into the Sidhe. They were created by certain agents who felt they did not have enough influence on the mortal world.

17) Bob was originally created by Etienne the Enchancer. He was born in more or less the same way that the new spirit baby (her name is Bonnie), but a different agent. Athena was born in the same way. Bonnie has a lot of knowledge but little experience. Like, she’s realized that pancakes are inanimate, and that’s big for her. (LOL)

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Andrea Gonzales not only provided the video for the panels Jim Butcher was part of at Dragon*Con, but also was the official photographer for his Cinder Spires cosplay team. If you’d like yet another reason to be excited for the September 29 release of Aeronaut’s Windlass, you should check them out!

Aeronaut’s Windlass Giveaway!

Aeronaut’s Windlass Giveaway! published on 4 Comments on Aeronaut’s Windlass Giveaway!

Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher will be out so soon we can almost taste it! Galleywampus will be attending one of the signings, which means… we want to get a couple of signed copies for our followers! If you want in on the action, please subscribe to our blog and/or follow us on Twitter. There will be two separate giveaways, so you have double the chances!

Keep in mind that the book won’t be out until the 29th, and the signing we will attend isn’t until October 2nd. But patience is a virtue when it comes to signed copies of Butcher books!

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