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.
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.
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.