1. The Aeronaut’s Windlass

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As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m hoping to read at least 26 books throughout the course of 2016. I do enjoy reading, so in theory this shouldn’t be too hard…

In any case, the first book I’ve read this year is The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, the first book in his new “The Cinder Spires” series. I was actually a bit surprised to find that he’d started a new series (and this book came out a few months ago, too!), so I was excited to see what he had come up with this time. I had enjoyed his previous works in the “Dresden Files” and “Codex Alera” series, which helped bring my interest in fantasy novels back to life.

But I digress. It would be remiss to talk about The Aeronaut’s Windlass without mentioning at least in part the new universe that “The Cinder Spires” is set within. A play on the steampunk concept, this fantastical world is made up of various “spires”, each of which appears to have taken its name from various mythologies. This particular book is set within Spire Albion, ruled by something that looks a bit like a constitutional monarchy, including a “Spirearch” and a parliament. Socioeconomic class within the spires appears to be denoted by elevation, such that the wealthier families live in the higher “Habbles”, and prisoners are sent to the base of the Spire as punishment. The addition of a magical system of etheric currents allows for a somewhat odd amalgamation of technologies: there exist airships, which are mostly what you might expect from the Age of Sail, powered by grown crystals that channel the etheric currents. Both etheric and gunpowder-based weapons exist; however, the process of rust (“iron rot”) has been dramatically accelerated, to the point where the steel necessary to make firearms lasts only a short time and must be clad in copper. And of course, like any other Butcher universe, there are the Etherealists, who can directly channel some of these magical powers. Oh, and the cats are sentient, sapient creatures that on occasion speak with humans.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass focuses on the creation of a ragtag band of characters with somewhat unlikely pasts against the backdrop of a new war between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora. Unfortunately, these characters are fairly trope-heavy, from the disgraced but still patriotic airship captain, to the odd etherealist, the heiress, the spunky lower-class girl, and the like. Butcher plays these tropes well, and it makes the characters feel familiar. In future books, I hope that he develops their personalities further, granting them some depth and complexity in their interactions.

As per usual with Butcher novels, the prose is a solid but not exceptional presentation of an engrossing plot. This is a book that is easy to read in a single sitting, encouraging readers to turn the page and find out what happens next. Especially as the first book in a larger series, The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a fun read, both establishing the world of the Cinder Spires and telling a relatively small-scale story that will undoubtedly grow larger in subsequent books. I’m excited to see what he comes up with next!

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