- Series: The Cinder Spires (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 640 pages
- Publisher: Roc; 1st edition (September 29, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451466802
- ISBN-13: 978-0451466808
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.9 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,685 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut's Windlass Hardcover – September 29, 2015
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“So Jim Butcher is writing futuristic dystopian steampunk? You had me at Jim Butcher, actually. But the rest is cool too....Great action scenes, a fascinating world, and characters of a sort I've never seen before. Yup. This is everything I’ve come to expect from Jim Butcher, but in a delightful new flavor.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss
“Wow. Just wow. Beware fellow readers, herein lies adventure that will keep you from food or rest…It is as if Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Patrick O’Brien and...well, Jim Butcher all got together and wrote a book. Steampunk done very, very right. Butcher proves yet again that he is an amazing storyteller.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs
“This is Jim Butcher at his best, drawing a fully realized, richly detailed, and downright fun literary world where fearless aeronauts ride the aether, brilliant wizards struggle with doorknobs, and a thirty-pound feline warrior keeps a pet human named Little Mouse. It’s steampunk meets magic with a dose of sci-fi for seasoning. Buy it and read it. You’ll be glad you did.”—New York Times bestselling author David Weber
“Butcher opens the imaginative Cinder Spires series with this sweeping fantastical epic...[It's] a fascinating, adventurous, and intricate story. Butcher brings a fresh and exciting perspective to secondary-world steampunk, giving the reader a thrilling ride.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Butcher, the bestselling author of the Dresden Files, now launches the Cinder Spires, a new epic fantasy, steampunk hybrid series that has shades of both Naomi Novik and Cherie Priest...With shifting points of view, short chapters, fast-paced action, and awesome battle scenes, the large cast of characters, elaborate world building, and intricate plot are revealed quickly and realized fully. It all reminds readers of when they first fell for Harry Dresden.”—Booklist (starred review)
“[Butcher] blends familiar steampunk and fantasy elements (airships, wizardry, and heroes from a monarch’s guard) in a fresh and wonderful way that results in a fantastic ride. This should well satisfy fans of fantasy, sf, or their stepchild steampunk.”—Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
A martial arts enthusiast whose résumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives mostly inside his own head so that he can write down the conversation of his imaginary friends, but his head can generally be found in Independence, Missouri. Jim is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera novels, and the Cinder Spires series, which began with The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
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This is one of the craziest books I've ever read. Its as if Discworld and Horatio Hornblower and Lord of the Rings all sort of collided into each other, in a post apocalyptic future thats sort of steam punk but more magic... (but the Discworld sort of magic.) In my humble opinion there was just way too much going on. Too many characters, too much world building, maybe to much action, just too much everything thrown onto the pages from some really crazy authors mind. In short its a recipe for disaster.
Except, apparently if that writer is Jim Butcher. He's like one of those crazy chefs that start out with ingredients you just know can't come out good and then they finish, while it certainly won't be for everyone you realize they did something. They did something special by even putting that something together, let alone in a way that most people will find enjoyable. I did. Despite feeling like I was on a crazy confusing ride that simultaneously had too much and not enough of what I wanted, I got to the end and really really enjoyed it.
This is lighter in someways that the Dresden Files. It has a slightly Black Company feel too it, but in a lighter weirder world. If you don't know what its about, ostensibly its about a group of people thrown together on a flying ship to track down some spies/invaders. Theres is a "princess" and a "wizard" and a "knight" and even a trusty animal side kick. Except none of them are what you expect them to be. They don't easily fit into the mold and really do work better as a team.
I have witnessed in this book the best writing of a cat I have ever encountered and it was spot on and regularly provided comic relief.
My biggest complaint was the characters seemed a little shallow contextually, but that was more because of them being thrown into the mix so fast and us spending inadequate amounts of time with them, not because they act like stock characters do. And thus is the crux of my review. I didn't think I was going to like this book while reading it. Its full of these counterintuitive things (for me) some silly world building components, some seemingly cardboard cut out characters, too much going on plot and world wise, just all these things that I didn't especially like. But when I came to the end it was something enjoyable and fun and amazing. Kind of like Disneyland. Sure its got crowds and long lines and sucky food and the rides are short and the buildings are fake but at the end of the day... it works. And when it does, like in this book, its somehow transports you to someplace magical.
And Butcher doesn't disappoint in "The Aeronaut's Windlass," which feels like the love child of Final Fantasy and Horatio Hornblower -- a rousing, action-packed fantasy set in a world where everyone lives on vast nation-like Spires, and crystal-powered airships sail through the clouds. His rich imagination is on full display here, and he weaves together a fast-moving, multi-layered story that promises to become even more epic in the installments to come.
After the AMS Predator is badly damaged in battle by an Auroran battlecruiser, Captain Grimm has to face the possibility that his motley crew may lose their home for good. But then the forces of Spire Aurora attack the people of Spire Albion, and Grimm is one of the brave people who manage to repel them... or rather, most of them. The Spirearch suspects treachery, so he enlists Grimm -- an honorable outcast -- along with a trio of capable new Guard trainees, a snobby cat and a pair of very, very eccentric Etherealists.
But their seemingly-simple mission quickly becomes much more complicated when they arrive at Habble Landing, and Grimm begins to realize that traps are being set up all around them. Mysterious attacks, rumors of horrors in the depths of the Spire, and Auroran spies all begin to coalesce around Grimm and his crew, trapping some and wounding others -- but the worst is yet to come, as one of the etherealists senses a terrible enemy lurking nearby...
Jim Butcher is well-known for solid world-building, and "The Aeronaut's Windlass" is no disappointment. Rather than just pasting gears and steampunk trappings on an average fantasy, Butcher instead spins up an entire world like no other -- everyone lives in Spires (think a country's worth of cities stacked on top of each other) built by the mysterious, long-lost Builders. There are sentient cats, energy-blasting crystals, genetically-engineered warriors, poisonous insectoid monsters, and a very strange form of magic that seems to make practitioners a wee bit crazy.
And all this is draped over a plot that is both densely complex and riotously entertaining. Butcher comes up with a complicated tale of espionage and sinister plans for Albion, and presents it with plenty of airship battles, crystal-blasting action, and the odd (literal) catfight. His prose is still nimble and often witty, especially when he writes of the eccentric etherealist Folly ("It did seem fitting, after all, that one be present for one’s own death") or the deliciously snobby cats ("“You saved us." “Of course I did. I am without flaw.”).
Perhaps his biggest problem is when he tries to write more formal, Victorianish-styled dialogue, such as what we get in the opening chapter of the book. It's not bad, but it sounds rather stiff coming from an author who writes hilarious quips so easily. Butcher seems more at home writing from Grimm's perspective.
Speaking of Grimm. he is also a new type of hero for Butcher -- while he's a cynical outsider like Harry Dresden, he's a much more serious, grizzled man who holds tightly to his crew and ship. And he seems to run his life according to a complex system of honor, loyalty and self-sufficiency. While he's still a mysterious figure in some ways, he's a likably brash, no-nonsense guy who cares about what needs to be done.
And there's a solid cast supporting him, such as the clever but naive aristocrat Gwen, her sensible cousin Benedict, the working-class Bridget, and the canny old Ferus; he even has some chapters from the perspectives of the Aurorans, allowing us to see how the enemy forces see the world. But the real scene-stealers are Folly and Rowl -- Rowl's arrogance and odd perspective (he refers to masts as "ship-trees") are delightful, and Folly is a bittersweet mixture of quirky oddity and mild mental illness.
"The Aeronaut's Windlass" is clearly part of a bigger, darker story that Jim Butcher is spinning out for us, but it's also a solid, action-packed adventure yarn in its own right -- and the world Butcher conjures promises to get a lot more interesting.