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The Cinder Spires #1

The Aeronaut's Windlass

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2015)
Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

630 pages, Hardcover

First published September 29, 2015

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About the author

Jim Butcher

277 books46.8k followers
Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires. His resume includes a laundry list of skills which were useful a couple of centuries ago, and he plays guitar quite badly. An avid gamer, he plays tabletop games in varying systems, a variety of video games on PC and console, and LARPs whenever he can make time for it. Jim currently resides mostly inside his own head, but his head can generally be found in his home town of Independence, Missouri.

Jim goes by the moniker Longshot in a number of online locales. He came by this name in the early 1990′s when he decided he would become a published author. Usually only 3 in 1000 who make such an attempt actually manage to become published; of those, only 1 in 10 make enough money to call it a living. The sale of a second series was the breakthrough that let him beat the long odds against attaining a career as a novelist.

All the same, he refuses to change his nickname.

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Profile Image for Eric Allen.
Author 3 books732 followers
February 16, 2016
As I read through this book, I wrote out some of my thoughts at the end of each day or so. I figured that rather than deleting all of that and writing out a review that says, basically, the exact same thing, I'd just leave it as is. But first, let us pray.

Oh God, the Eternal Father. Hallowed be thy name. Etc. etc. etc. Please forgive thy unworthy son for the Star Trek reference he is about to make, because it will be quite stupid, and likely cause many an eye undue strain from excessive rolling.



It's dead, Jim.

I've had a few people complain that my whole journal-esque way of writing this review is too long winded. So here's a summary up front. Boring. Bland, unlikable characters. Whimsical idea crammed down our throats to no point or purpose and never fucking goes away or shuts the hell up. Not enough exposition, making the book confusing at many times. Little motivation for generally anything happening is given. Many things simply happen "because reasons" without real explanation or foundation in the story. Did I mention unlikable, bland characters? Because holy shit, each and every character in this book is either about as interesting as a beige wall, or a completely insufferable asshole. There's little to pull you into the story, and even less to keep you interested if you manage to drag your way in. Would not recommend, even to steampunk fans. Certainly will not continue with the next book.

15% through. I really hate to say this about a book written by Jim Butcher, because he's one of my favorite authors, but this one is kinda not all that great starting out. I'm not really all that far into it, and I'm desperately hoping it gets better, but for the moment, it's like rereading every steampunk book I've ever read before, with a pretty uninspired coming of age story tacked onto it. There are some interesting worldbuilding ideas here, and I can see potential in the world this book takes place in, but the story is really generic so far, the characters are kind of generic, and for the love of god, can we please stop having chapters from the point of view of the freaking cat please!?!?! It's well written, at least, which is more than I can say about the last steampunk book I picked up, but I can't help thinking how much more I'd be enjoying the next Dresden book right now. I sure do hope this book picks up some speed soon.

30% through. Getting better, but still a little meh. Action scene is over, and now we're back to more bland dialog. Seriously, these people sit around and talk to each other more than the chicks on the freaking View. And seriously, am I the only one on earth that is extremely annoyed by the cats? I kinda hate the entire idea of them. But then, I tend to think some rather not nice things about people who spend their free time doing little else but watching cat videos. I don't get the fascination so many people have with cats, and seriously, in my opinion, the cats in this book are ruining what would, otherwise be a tolerably well put together world. I just don't get cat people.

55% through. Over halfway done now... and I think I just need to come out and say it. There's really no hiding from it anymore. It's time to be honest with myself. I kinda hate this book. I so wanted to love it, but... It's boring. It's bland. It's generic to a startling degree from an author who has always been so original in his work. There's not enough exposition so a lot of it is confusing. The characters are all either completely unlikable, like Gwen, and pretty much every single fucking cat, or utterly bland and without much in the way of personality like pretty much everyone else.

And oh my god, the cats. Just make them go away. I hate them so freaking much. Without them, this book would have been readable, but somewhat forgettably meh. But instead, these stupid friggen cats make the book a CHORE to read through. The entire idea of them is just so stupid that it hurts. And every single cat is a terrible, completely unlikable asshole on top of it... kinda like real cats, now that I think about it, but still. I mean, if Butcher had done it for comedic purposes, it might have worked. If I could tell that the author was kinda winking at me through all of this crap, it wouldn't be so bad. But it is played out with complete seriousness, and I absolutely hate it. This is stupid. It's boring. It's incredibly lame, and it completely ruins a book that would have, otherwise, been not great, but okay at least. They just keep coming back. Just when you think you're rid of them for a bit, there they are, ruining the damn story again. And the sheer number of chapters from the point of view of one of them is just ridiculous. When laying in bed and staring at the ceiling is actually more entertaining than your book is, there's a bit of a problem.

Sorry Jim. You know I love ya. I absolutely love the Dresden Files. I thought Codex Alera was a pretty decent and underappreciated YA fantasy series. But man, this book... is more than a little terrible. I want to finish it out of loyalty to the author, but it's going to be in audio form at 2x speed, and after I finish Brandon Sanderson's new Mistborn book, which comes out tomorrow. I doubt I'll continue with this series into future volumes. Like I said, the world has potential, but Butcher seems content not to even try reaching for it, and, well, I'd rather read something that is less bland and confusing and more fun and entertaining.

The really sad thing is that with a few simple changes this book could be GREAT. Less cats (preferably 0, but I'd settle for them not be so fucking central to the plot with so many viewpoint chapters), and a wise-cracking Dresden-esque type character. You know, someone that actually has a personality, unlike 90% of the soulless drones in this book, who can make the looooooooong boring stretches of dialog entertaining. Seriously, with those two things, this book would go from the 2 stars it's looking like to me at the moment, to around 4 stars. But as it is, I friggen hate the cats, and every time they are there it grates on me hard, and all of the characters are just so bland and unlikeable. Those are my two major complaints. I could easily swallow the generic, slow and boring plot as set up for later books if not for those two complaints. I mean, take a look at A Game of Thrones. The entire book is nothing but setup, but there are no objectionably horrible plot devices like the cats, and a good many of the cast of characters have a lot of personality and, if they're not really good people, you can at least sympathize with them, and root for them when the story is being told from their point of view. There aren't any characters like that in this book. I either hate them, or I don't care about them. And when you don't like, or don't care about the characters in a book, it makes it very hard to become invested emotionally in the story, and in the world it's taking place in, because tension and drama come from caring about the characters, having an emotional connection to them, and genuinely wanting to see them succeed. Without likable, or at least sympathetic characters, there's no point in even telling a story to begin with, because without them, there's no way for a reader to be emotionally invested in what's happening.

60% done and switching to Mistborn: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. I can't take much more of this one right now, maybe after I've finished another book I can come back and finish it.

60% still. Seriously. Go read Shadows of Self instead of this book, it's far better, and far more entertaining than this soulless, boring, and aggravating mess of stupid and annoying. I hate to snipe people away from one favorite author by telling them to patronize another favorite author instead, but man, this book is terrible, and Brandon Sanderson produced something that is SOOOOOOO much better than it, that there's really no comparison at all.

70% done. Back to the drudgery after the awesomeness that was Shadows of Self. I am literally beating my head against the wall with this book. There's just nothing in here to enjoy at all. There's not enough exposition for the world itself to really shine, the characters are just so unlikable or lacking in anything resembling personality, and the cats... just stop it with the damn cats already!!! I don't know if I'm going to be able to force myself to read much more than this. I don't understand all of the glowing praise this book is getting from goodreads members. There's nothing in this book to enjoy, like at all. I mean, I just read an action scene, and I was bored out of my mind with it. Why? Because I don't care about, or don't like, any of the characters participating in it. The characters are just awful, and when the characters are awful, anything happening to or around them is boring, because you don't care what happens to them. And when you don't care what happens to the characters, what's the point of an action scene except to stall the already dragging plot with a bunch of nothing interesting going on. I would hate to abandon this one unfinished. Up to this point I've read and enjoyed every published work of Jim Butcher. I want to show my loyalty to the author by reading all of his books, because he really is one of my favorites, but man, he's not making it easy with this book. I mean, I'm the guy who is CONSTANTLY defending Butcher with Harry Dresden's recent downward spiral into darkness and depression, and even I can't find anything good to say about The Aeronaut's Windlass.

85% done now, almost freaking there!!! Okay, let me give you a little example of how really contrived the importance of the cats is to the story of this book. Yes, I'm still complaining about this. It is literally ruining the entire book for me. Two characters go off to meet with a tribe of cats because reasons. And yes, that is literally the actual reason they go to talk to the cats in the story, because reasons. And they get exactly nothing out of the encounter except several chapters about the cats, and being separated from the group so that they can be captured later. This feels EXTREMELY forced to me. It feels like the author really wanted the cats to be important to the plot... and then couldn't think of any real reason why they should be. He's clearly proud of them, and really wants them to play a big part in the story, but he doesn't really seem to know what that part should be, or why anyone should give half a damn about them. Which is an excellent reason why they shouldn't be in the book at all, because the author himself doesn't seem to know why they exist or what purpose they should serve. They're literally just there, taking up space, doing absolutely nothing important to the plot whatsoever, and each and every one of them is a completely insufferable asshole on top of it, which makes them even more unlikable to me.

I understand the desire to add something whimsical to the story... but if you're going to take up SO FREAKING MUCH of the book talking about your whimsical idea, it damn well better have a real reason in the story to exist. At this point, it does not, and I'm almost done with the book. I really don't see this horrible idea paying off in any meaningful way in the pages that I have left. Whimsy is fine, but if you're going to shove it down the throats of your readers like this, there's got to be an actual point to it.

And no, I do not count the cats showing up later to fight the silk weavers as an actual point, because none of the characters would have been in this situation to begin with without sending those first two characters to meet with the cats in the first place. You see why I call this forced? You send people to the cats for no reason at all, they are captured while returning, which leads to a situation where the cats have to come and help fight. Okay... that still leaves the question of why they even bothered going to the cats in the first place, and still artificially forces the great importance the author keeps attributing to the cats into the story for no real reason at all. The characters had no real reason to visit them in the first place, and the cats only became important to the climax of the book because they did. Do you see why I hate them so much? It's because they don't have a reason to exist, and the author keeps trying to pretend that they do.

90% done... BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!! Is this supposed to be exciting? I mean, I assume I'm somewhere in the middle of the climax. Wait, sorry, I meant to say "climax". Things are happening, I guess. People are doing stuff. Talking cats exist for no actual reason, and the author keeps cramming them down our throats as if they're somehow important, yet completely fails to show or explain why. And me, I'm sitting here scratching my head and wondering why they're doing anything, and why the author expects me to care. If this wasn't like the EXACT same crap that happens in like EVERY SINGLE OTHER STEAMPUNK BOOK ON EARTH, and if I gave half a damn about any of the characters... no, I think it would still be boring as hell. Did Jim Butcher REALLY write this book? Or was it just his evil twin, trying to destroy his career... because this is one of those books that could very likely send a pretty large chunk of his readership looking elsewhere for entertainment once Dresden finishes up. I mean, if this is what I can expect out of him once the Dresden Files ends, I don't really see myself sticking with him until he finds something more interesting to write. At least Gwen kept her stupid mouth shut for a few chapters. There were a few chapters there with no Gwen and no cats, and they weren't all that bad... but then Gwen came back, and that whole idiocy with the cats coming to the rescue happened, and it went back down from meh to horrible again. You know what, if the bad guys killed Gwen, Rowl and a bunch of the cats, this book would get considerably better... unfortunately I'm almost done, and I doubt that's going to happen. I'm just going to pretend that once I've finished it, there's another line that the author forgot to write, "and then a giant meteor fell out of the sky and obliterated all life on whatever planet this is supposed to be taking place on." Ahhhh, what a happy ending that would be.

95% done. I tried so hard to finish this book today, but I literally could not force myself to read the last 30 pages. I just couldn't do it. It was boring me to tears. I had to take a break and promise myself I'd just get it over with tomorrow.

100% done. Okay, this book did get SLIGHTLY better once the airship chase started, because there was only one cat and he was keeping his stupid mouth shut, but it wasn't really enough to really excite me, or make me want to ever pick up another book of this series again.

Final Verdict. 1 star. I was leaning toward two, until that ridiculously stupid and completely contrived battle in which hte cats had to show up to save the day, even though they wouldn't have had to in the first place if no one had gone to visit them because reasons. There are, pretty much only two characters in this book, a completely arrogant asshole, and a bland drone without any personality that just says lines every now and then when the author needs someone to talk. These two characters are copied a dozen or so times, given different names, genders and jobs, but they're all basically the exact same character. The characterization in this book is pathetic, and from an author of Jim Butcher's caliber, I expected more. Basically, the entire cast of characters is completely boring, or completely unbearable. There is not enough exposition given to make the world and the story taking place within it make real sense. You're expected to take a whole lot of things on faith, and a whole lot of things just seem to happen because reasons. This leads to the plot not really holding together well, and the world it's taking place in being far too vague, and often confusing. Most of the action scenes are pretty generic, and rather boring, because I had no real connection with any of the characters at all. I was actively rooting for some of them to be killed because I hated them so much. I was not so lucky. This all made for a very boring, and highly frustrating reading experience, and I very much doubt I will continue on with the series when Butcher gets around to publishing future volumes. There are some decent ideas in here, but they weren't delved into or developed enough for them to really make much of a difference on my opinion of the book as a whole. There is potential for a decent story here, but a lot of the cast has got to go, or actually develop some sort of personality, and the author needs to start explaining things a little better than he has. When "Because reasons" is used to explain something about 80 times in the book, it might be time to go back and rethink the entire thing, and maybe plot things out just a little bit better. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, really, not even fans of the steampunk genre, because as steampunk books go, you've probably already read it before, and with better characters, and in a far less vaguely described world. All in all, I thought this book was utterly terrible, bordering on unreadable. I love ya, Jim, but I ain't gonna lie to ya either. This one just wasn't for me, and I don't really understand all of the wonderful reviews other people are posting about it. It's almost as if they read a completely different book than the one I read, or didn't bother reading it at all before posting a review of it. It's probably the worst book I've made it all the way to the end of since the Author's Definitive Edition of The Unremembered.

This one was a pretty big dud. I suppose that after 15 excellent Dresden books, and 6 decent Codex Alera books, and numerous short stories, Butcher is entitled to one, though, so it's all good. I just hope that he returns to finishing up Dresden, before he decides to continue on with The Cinder Spires. Because in my book, this series is over. I took a pen and wrote in a final line that the author seems to have forgotten:

"And then a giant meteor fell out of the sky and obliterated all life on whatever planet this is supposed to be taking place on."

What a great ending.

P.S. Also, the title has nothing to do with the book, and seems a shameless ploy to draw in fans of the steampunk genre, by using words that sound like they're associated with steampunk things, instead of giving an accurate depiction of what the book might actually be about.

P.P.S. Also, the Spirearch is a moron. "I'm going to send barely trained, incompetent soldiers who have yet to actually complete the most basic of their training, and are a long way from being actual soldiers, because reasons... Well, the book seems to be about them, so I'm just thinking ahead. Oh, and I'll send them on this SUPER IMPORTANT mission that, if failed, could mean the utter destruction of our entire spire and the death of everyone in it, in an airship that's broken, with a captain of questionable loyalty... Oh, and then I'll toss in two crazy people, because why not? Yeah... Pure geinus. I'm already patting myself on the back for a perfect victory over the enemy." The fact that it actually worked does not belie how utterly idiotic it is when you really sit down and think about it.
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,857 followers
Shelved as 'don-t-count'
April 7, 2017
Alternate title:

How To Use SteamPunk Words to Market to Genre Readers: Jim's Attempt to Cash in on the Wild Popularity of Dresden Files

Profile Image for Rob.
848 reviews535 followers
August 1, 2016
Executive Summary: Fast paced action, interesting world building, memorable characters, cool magic system. In a word: fun!

Audio book: This one was coming in with a high bar to meet. Mr. Butcher's popular Dresden Files gets amazing performances by James Marsters. Meanwhile his Codex Alera series is done by the excellent Kate Reading.

So how does Euan Morton stack up? I'm happy to report quite well. I've had this pre-ordered in hardcover for months, but I think I may stick with audio if he continues as the narrator. Great voices and inflections that adds that little extra something that make an audio a great option for this book.

Full Review
Jim Butcher is my favorite author. I discovered him about 8 years ago, and quickly devoured his Dresden Files books. Then I moved right into his Codex Alera series. For three blissful years there was a Dresden Files book in April and a Codex Alera book in December.

Upon completing Codex Alera, Mr. Butcher's pace seemed to slow. I found the books as good as ever, or possibly even better, just far less frequent. At first it may anger fans of the Dresden Files that Mr. Butcher is writing something else. I'm here to tell you it shouldn't.

This book is excellent. I'd be surprised if any fans of Mr. Butcher don't also enjoy this. And hey, maybe writing two series at the same time will get us more excellent books to enjoy in a shorter period of time. It seems to have worked well for him in the past.

When I first heard of this series, my initial reaction was, Steampunk? Really? I must admit that I never really saw the appeal. I haven't read a lot of the genre, but what little I had read until recently didn't seem to be for me. My second thought was Well, I'd read Jim Butcher Twilight fan fiction if that's what he wanted to write.

The action starts almost right from the beginning. The pace is furious, with very few points of slowing. There was never a good stopping point in my listening and I always hated to put it down. To me that's what separates a 5 star rating from a solid 4.

We are quickly introduced to several characters. First we meet Gwen Lancaster, a young noblewoman determined to join the Spire Ark's guard. I had a bit of a mixed reaction to her. There were times I found her frustrating, but it's good to have a variety of characters, and Gwen helps to round things out nicely.

Next we meet Grim, the Captain of the airship Predator and various members of his crew. Grim is very much of the vein of Harry Dresden, though I see bit of Bernard from Codex Alera in him as well. He's easily likeable, but far from the best character in my opinion.

Bridget Targwen and her cat Rawl come next. Both are fantastic, especially Rawl. All of the cats are excellent, but especially Rawl. Mr. Butcher's cats are a bit reminiscent to me of those in Robin Hobb's Tawny Man Trilogy. He seems to nail cats exactly. And apparently the internet is crazy for cats, so instant bestseller, right?

Finally we meet Master Etherialist Ferris, and his apprentice Folly. Folly is absolutely my favorite! She reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood. All of her scenes are highly entertaining. She's probably considered more of a secondary character to the first three, but I hope she continues to play a large role in the future books.

And if that's not enough there are several other secondary and tertiary characters that are all quite good, such as Gwen's cousin Benedict, members of the Predator: Creedy, Kettle and Journeyman and the Spire Ark himself: Lord Albion.

The antagonists are a bit cartoonish at times, especially Cavendish, but the two main Auroan soldiers felt more nuanced though.

This story is very character-driven, but Mr. Butcher has created a pretty interesting world for them to inhabit. There is very little steam powered anything though. Instead the main resource of note are Ethereal crystals. They power everything from Airships to hand weapons referred to as gauntlets.

Explanations for the world and magic systems are slowly metered out as the book goes on, but there were thankfully few info dumps. Or if there were, I was too busy enjoying myself to notice.

The book is fairly well self contained. Things end in a pretty good spot, especially considering this is the first book in a series. There are plenty of questions left to be answered, but most of the main conflicts of this book are either resolved, or put on hold nicely.

Overall if you enjoy Mr. Butcher other work, or enjoy character-driven faced paced action packed stories, pick this one up. You won't regret it.

Now I will once again eagerly have to await the next book in two series by Mr. Butcher, much like when I first discovered him. How lucky for us all!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
May 1, 2019
Full review, first posted at www.fantasyliterature.com:


Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass gets a mixed verdict from me. The naval airships with their 3D battles in the mists were the highlight, reminiscent of Disney’s Treasure Planet (an animated film that I consider underrated). If I had read more naval fiction in my life I daresay it wouldn’t have struck me as quite so fresh but, not having yet made the time to read Captain Horatio Hornblower or Master and Commander, I really enjoyed the stubbornly noble and vastly capable Captain Grimm, his loyal crew and their air battles.

Grimm, as well as the other main characters, Gwen, Benedict and Bridget, were appealing characters, and I enjoyed spending time with them, even if they’re rather stereotypical. However, having Benedict be a Warrior ― a human with lion DNA mixed into his genetic heritage ― was an imaginative touch, particularly as it became clear that, despite their strength, the Warriors are forced to deal with subtle discrimination in society. The less conventional characters, particularly master etherealist Ferus and his apprentice Folly, veered close to being overly quirky, but I appreciated them more as I became more familiar with them and understood why they act the way they do.

Rowl and the other intelligent cats were an entertaining addition to the story line, particularly for readers who are fond of cats. It was great fun to see put into words thoughts that I’m fairly certain my cat has thought about me! However, as much as I enjoyed them, I have mixed feelings about how successfully the cat clans were utilized as a key component in this novel. Their dialogue was humorous but too often went for the easy laugh at the expense of being meaningful, and their scenes often felt oddly shallow, more what I’d expect from a middle grade fantasy novel than an adult one.

In fact, while The Aeronaut’s Windlass isn’t being marketed as a YA book, it felt like one to me: two of the three main characters are teenage girls, there’s no R-rated language or content, and the writing lacked the depth and complexity that I’d normally expect in an adult fantasy.

The unusual setting in this book, with all human life limited to cities built on immense spires, had great potential but was underutilized. I also disliked the cliffhanger scenes at the end; they felt like an unnecessary addition to me, and having the novel end on an unpleasant note was not entirely consistent with the overall tone of the story. But I’ll still be there for the next installment.
Profile Image for Lo9man88.
130 reviews45 followers
February 4, 2023
For me the set of mind i have before starting a new book is very important, it kinda sets the mood, the pace of reading, my interaction with the words and the author's style , so for this book : from the 1st page i connected with it simply because it's a Jim Butcher novel, it's like buying or going to the movies and you're familiar with the leading actor/actress and s/he never/rarely disappoint, so awesomeness is pretty much guaranteed .
This book started with an unusual confrontation between a mother and her daughter ... a cool battle in the skies(which ended with an epic "hauling of ass"... then a city(spire) bombing.. Marine teams dropping from the skies...A quick very impressive counter-attack... and so on and on : you get the picture, add to this a set of cool characters ranging from stoic, punky, nerdy, uptight, aristocratic, heroic to patriotic: mix it all with political intrigue, cold war, ancient enemy rising in the horizon and a very cool system of magic and you get a very promising and exciting series debut. I started reading and listening simultaneously to the audio book but not even 6 chapters in i ditched the audio cause it was holding me down , and i started reading maximum speed .
All in all a very exciting read. Thank you Jim, waiting for peace talks nail-bitingly .
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
October 14, 2015
I'm pretty sure everyone and their dog is going to read this regardless of my "review" so I thought I'd shake things up (don't hold your breath). I'm going to go through some of the thoughts I had while reading it, make some comparisons, essentially not have any cohesion or flow to this review whatsoever. (As if I would do a review like this out of laziness, come on!)

Random Thoughts While Reading The Aeronaut's Windlass:

1. The cats were spot on! This is probably what stuck out the most to me, but the cats in Aeronaut were a blast. They're sentient beings that most of the world thinks are vermin, but they have their own language, their own ways, everything and humans can even communicate if they take the time to learn. And they act just like cats who could do all those things. It's hilarious.

(Rawl if he were orange)

For example, there's an hour long meeting between two cats where they just stand around each other trying to show the most indifference toward the other one.

There's even a point of view set from one of the cat's pov's. I'm glad they got lots of time in the book because they were just so good.

2. I got a bit of a Brandon Sanderson feel from the book. The world's not quite as detailed, but it's very interesting with lots of magic, and a definite PG-13 (if not PG) rating. Also, it's one huge tome for an epic series beginning.

3. The world does feel a tad empty, but at the same time I'm highly intrigued to find out more. I think that may have been part of the point. There's so much going on and so much character development that I was a little confused as to the lay of the land. That's not always a bad thing and I think it will catch up as the series progresses.

4. The crew of the Predator, especially their Captain, Grimm, could be my second favorite part (behind the cats of course). Airships powered by precious crystals and their battles and chases were pretty awesome. I'll take two.

5. Euan Morton, the narrator for the audiobook, did an excellent job with one complaint. He'd almost get too into the acting and forget that we need to actually hear him speak to know what's going on. Almost every time he whispered I couldn't hear a thing. Luckily I had a physical copy of the book to look things up (like "mistmaw").

6. Cats totally think humans are the dumbest.

7. Aeronaut also reminded me a bit of Steven Erikson, especially Folly, who can only speak to people through speaking to her necklace of crystals. Very cooky and very much an aspect I love to see more of in books.

8. For as big as this book is, it doesn't feel that way at all. It's non-stop from page one.

9. Don't get me wrong, I love Harry Dresden, but we have a love-hate relationship. I can only stand so much at once. Aeronaut is a welcome refreshment and proves Butcher can do epic/steampunkish fantasy as well as anything. (On that note, I still need to read his Codex Alera series)

Very minor gripes aside, Butcher's at the top of his game. I looked forward to my commute, to grocery shopping, and shoot I was finding ways to listen by cleaning the house. The Aeronaut's Windlass displays Butcher's talent to just have fun with his characters and shows he knows what his readers like.

(it's cats, isn't it?)

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
April 27, 2016
I've honestly not read that much steampunk, but those that I have read all seem to blur together with common airship themes, nobility and rank curs, Victorian style duels, and plain adventure. As an entire genre, it suffers in my mind as becoming old hat. Perhaps if this novel had come out a decade ago, I'd have been so damn impressed and enthused with the whole idea that I'd have enthusiastically endorsed it regardless of a decent story, especially if the characters were bright and delicious.

I was anxious. I'm a big fan of Dresden Files. But then, I loved his Codex Alera, so having seen him treat epic fantasy as well as UF, I started with a bit more forgiving outlook.

So how well did Butcher pull this off?

I think it ended extremely strong. The taste of things to come is Very exciting, but of course, without strong characters, that would be meaningless. It isn't meaningless.

My initial reactions to the novel was a bit more turbulent, with more than a few fractures in my Aetherial Crystals.

None of the characters started very strong. They seemed very workmanlike, like a standard template, and it took a while before Gwen or Grimm or Bridget or anyone else started to grow on me. Of course, that's probably because Butcher decided, for good or ill, to develop everyone primarily by their experience on stage. Captain Grimm is a notable exception, and he happened to be the one I liked best, first. Gwen just seemed like a major disaster in the making.

All of this improved as the story advanced, hitting quite a few standard steampunk tropes along the way, and by the time the swashbuckling and the monster killing was fully under way, I was fully invested.

But the best part of the novel was the ship, the Predator, and the aerial battles, from the chases to the larger naval battles. I've never been that fond of military actions, but perhaps it's merely a function about how well they are written. These were done very entertainingly.

I may be alone in disliking one aspect of the novel:

The cats.

Yes, anthropomorphic cats. Intelligent spies, war-like nature, and upset at how inconstant those damn humans are. Okay, that last part was funny. The rest just never struck me as that great. Furry meets steampunk. I WANT to think it would be a good mash-up, but I was left kinda cold.

That being said, the novel became quite good by the end. I'll definitely continue the series later.

Update 4/27/16

This novel has been nominated for the 2016 Hugo for best novel!

Unfortunately, this is not my top pick. I really enjoy the author in general and I can enjoy the fact that he's writing in a new field, and this novel does have a lot of epic action scenes and darring-do and excellent world-building ideas, but it didn't capture my heart and my imagination quite as much as I might have wished.

Maybe it's the steampunk. Maybe I just want to like steampunk more than I actually do. I don't know.

Regardless, this is also a solid Book One of a series. A lot is left for later exploration with an ever-greater war in store for us. This is a problem for me when it comes to the Hugos. I don't think I'm alone in a hope that a new category opens up for Hugo Series Winners, or a little more realistically, Best Novel in A Series for 20** year. Then there would have been a real place for Ancillary Mercy, The Aeronaut's Windlass, The Fifth Season, or past wonderful novels like A Memory of Light.

There were a lot of great SF novels that came out in 2015 that weren't part of series that I think got short shrift. Hugo awards ARE a popularity contest, it's very true, but it gets rather odd when we have to rely on tons of additional books to get across all the stories we want to say when some novels do it concisely and truly do fit the category of Novel (not Novels). Radiance and The Library at Mount Char are good 2015 examples.

That being said, I'm not saying this was a particularly bad choice, especially since it has lots of story, lots of plot, and interesting characters and settings. It could wind up being one of those truly glorious series we always squee about, such as Butcher's Dresden Files. I'm just saying that there's way more than enough examples of two great categories that could be split at long last. I mean, think about it. This year alone, 3 of the 5 nominations are part of a series. Two are first books. Is this getting out of control?
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,493 reviews958 followers
December 4, 2015

Jim Butcher boldly goes where other have have gone before. For his new epic fantasy series he borrows some fashionable trends and commercially succesful themes and turns them into something not exactly new, but defintely entertaining and fun to delve into. His secondary world is developed vertically instead of horizontally: huge towers, rising miles high into a perennially cloudy sky, each such "Spire" a sovereign nation whose survival depends on its commercial and military fleet of half-magical, half-conventional sailships. The opening novel pits Spire Albion against Spire Aurora, a conflict that begins with isolated 'incidents' between privateers and military double-deckers. Disgraced Captain Grimm of the Albion's Predator (as in Ketty Jay, Firefly and Millenium Falcon) sweeps down on an unsuspecting rival sailship only to be himself trapped by a much stronger Auroran frigate. Grimm and his crew barely limp back to Spire Albion, their 'Predator' so badly damaged that a wit from the docks exclaims that she's only good for going up and down the height of the Spire like a windlass. Hence the title. That's just the prologue, and the action really picks up later on!

Something Old
The style is familiar from my reads of several Harry Dresden mysteries and of the whole Codex Alera series. Jim Butcher still has the magic touch of the natural born storyteller, pushing me to read just one more page, just one more chapter before I turn off the light and go to sleep. His major is in writing action scenes, with a close second in snappy and funny dialogue. A talking tomcat is responsible for a hefty part of the humorous banter in the book.

Also old is the world of the Spires, with hints at ancient, more technologically advanced civilizations and unspeakable dangers lurking in the ground floor jungles, possibly also a past holocaust that left only the huge stone columns as a haven for survivors of the human race. This ancient past may come back to bite the current inhabitants:

"There's an Enemy?"
"God in Heaven, yes. I'm sure I told you. I distinctly remember doing so."
"Perhaps that was tomorrow, teacher."
"It may be. But yes, quite. Enemy, capital E."

Something New
Building a world where magic and technology coexist, where battles are fought with ship cannons, rattling sabers and muskets side by side with Force Shields, Power Rays, Mental Choking Grips and other assorted mind games, is not an easy task, but I believe Butcher pulled this off well here. His system is maybe skewed towards the battle mechanics an his practitioners tend to be overpowered, judging by his previous series, but the resulting combinations of different sorts of energy and crystal containers and inborn talents serve the needs of the plot extremely well (for now).

Lumin crystals were designed to accept a charge of etheric energy and output a steady trickle of light. But light was really just one of any number of possible expressions of energy. Weapons crystals did the same thing, only with heat and force. Lift crystals expressed that energy in a form of inverted gravity. And the most complex crystals of all, power core crystals, expressed their energy in another form - electricity.

My favorite magic casters are actually the wildcards in the system - (Old Jedi) Master Ferus and his (Padawan) apprentice Folly. Their relationship with the etherical forces is unpredictable and likely to drive them to madness, but when it works, it offers prophetic glimpses at future events (another Star Wars homage / reference?) and spectacular special effects in battle.

Something Borrowed
I already mentioned George Lucas, Joss Wheddon and Chris Wooding in connection with this new series. For the ship to ship engagements the go to original sources appear to be Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey. The carefully organized battle magics reminded me of Brandon Sanderson, with an isolated nod at the Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky, where a key tenet was that the magicians where unable to use even the simplest mechanical devices. ("Doorknobs are extremely complex technology" exclaims Master Ferus). One of the inhabited levels in the Spire Albion (called Hables as in habitable floors) is modeled from Istanbul, with Hable Landing commercial district a spitting image of the Grand Bazaar : "Entire lenghts of cramped street were dedicated to specific crafts and businesses. There was a street of tinkers and smiths, the air hot and filled with the sound of metal on metal..."

Something Blue

As in bluebloods - the heroes and heroines of the story are mostly drafted from the nobility of the Spire's social ladder. Impetuous teenager Gwendolyn Margaret Elizabeth Lancaster join the Royal Guards of Spire Albion and teams up with her debonair cousin Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster (born with enhanced musculature and reflexes)and with fellow new recruit Bridget Tagwyn, shy but strong as an ox, for a secret mission to save the Spire from a perfidious Auroran attack. The inspiration for the Spire Albion's social structure and its conflict with the rival Spire Aurora is easily attributed to England at the time of the Napoleonic wars.

Even the Rowl the tomcat is a blueblood in his own tribe, scion and heir to the leader of the pack.

And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe

Actually in Jim's pocket, since I decided to continue with the series, hoping it will not become a drawn out money grabbing machine, and that my past disenchantments both with the Dresden Files and with Codex Alera, both after strong debut novels, will be proven wrong.

Four fun-filled, action packed, but thin gilded stars.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
April 29, 2016
Ooookkkaaayyy.... I picked this up as soon as it was released, and it sat on my "currently reading shelf" for a while as I finished some library books.

I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series. That series is not only my favorite Urban Fantasy series but also simply among my favorite books.

Here I can't be quite as enthusiastic as about his Dresden series. I would however (so far at least) say I like it maybe a bit better than his Codex Alera series.

Did i need to rate the various series like that? Oh well.

We start out in a world where humans live in huge spires that extend into the air. They travel in air ships powered and controlled by crystals. Yeah I know, that's a quick and dirty intro that may leave you more confused than not but the book explains it better...it has more space to do it.

On the plus side the book builds it's plot and draws it's characters well. The story does have a rather large cast of characters to keep track of but they will fall into place pretty quickly. Butcher has the grace not to use consonant heavy names that resemble each other so you end up thinking of them as "Q guy 1 and Q guy 2". You will (i think) get into the book's action and story very quickly. On the down side the book does have several very slow sections where the story gets close to bogging down. However that doesn't last and the book always pulls itself back onto the main track.

The book (for those of you who like me are Dresden fans) is told in third person rather than first this of course allows JB to move from character to character with an omnipotent voice. This is on the whole done smoothly and our main characters seem to me to remain (so far anyway) in a good balance. (By the way one of our main characters is a cat and he's handled very well. For those of us who love cats there are some chuckles here.)

All in all (I say that a lot don't I?) while I can't put this in the same class as the Dresden (really for me anyway not nearly in that league) books it's a good read and I can recommend it. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,028 reviews2,605 followers
January 13, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2016/01/13/b...

Jim Butcher. I am a big fan. I will read any new Dresden Files book as soon as it comes out, and considering it’s one of only a few long-running urban fantasy series I’m actually all caught up with, I’d say I’m pretty invested and the character and stories. When I first heard about The Aeronaut’s Windlass in his new steampunkish series though, I was both excited and a little hesitant. I feel Butcher is at his best when he’s writing modern characters in modern settings, where his clever humor and penchant for hilarious pop culture references can fully come into play—which is precisely what makes his urban fantasy so delightful and fun to read. That’s probably why I didn’t do so well with his epic fantasy series Codex Alera; even though I love the genre, I missed the easy wisecracks and the more intimate first-person narrative that I’m more familiar with when it comes to what I know of the author’s style.

Still, though. Jim Butcher and steampunk? My wariness notwithstanding, I also knew I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I could see him pulling this off with style.

And hell yeah he does. The Aeronaut’s Windlass might not have been everything I expected, but it was entertaining, action-packed and imaginative. Butcher really pulled out all the stops with this one, blowing me away with his wildly creative world building. This is not your traditional steampunk, with clockwork and corsets. In this world, nations are built upon towering spires, and their armies war against each other using flying warships, battle gauntlets, and other weaponry powered by energy crystals. The book follows a quite a few characters, including Captain Grimm, the airship captain with a tarnished military record he didn’t deserve; Gwen Lancaster, the young noblewoman who means well even though she can be a bit abrasive and overbearing; Benedict, Gwen’s cousin, who is a handsome and charming super-soldier; Bridget, who hails from an impoverished noble house; and Rowl, Bridget’s snobby sentient talking cat. Yes, I said talking cat!

The book begins with Grimm’s airship, the A.M.S. Predator, taking severe damage after engaging with an enemy battlecruiser. Lacking the funds for repair, Grimm has no choice but to accept a mission from the Spirearch of Albion in exchange for the expensive replacement parts required to get the Predator in shipshape again. He reluctantly agrees to join up with a group of young noble guards-in-training and couple of oddball etherealists on an adventurous journey across the skies. Together, this band of unlikely heroes are tasked to uncover a traitorous plot for the Spirearch, but what they end up finding is a threat even more ancient and powerful than any of them can ever imagine.

There’s no question about it; The Aeronaut’s Windlass was a lot of fun, with a plot fully-loaded with interesting and dynamic relationships, aerial combat action, conspiracies and intrigue. On the other hand, I also felt that the pacing dragged a little from the sheer weight of an overly complex storyline and too many character perspectives. Main and supporting characters would be “benched” for long periods of time while the focus was on something else, and I get the feeling Butcher probably struggled to find the right balance between all his POVs. He is definitely much better when he is writing in the first-person, where all the attention is on a single character and story events are more focused and immediate.

The prose also feels slightly different and more formal than what I’m used to from him, which is not surprising given the high fantasy setting replete with aristocratic houses and nobility. However, this is a good thing. Beneath the surface, the tone and humor is still 100% Jim Butcher. Any doubt of that would be removed as soon as you meet Rowl and his feline brethren. Plus, it would be criminal of me to write this review without mentioning the cats, because they were by far one of the most delightful and memorable surprises of this novel. Might Butcher have been a cat in his past life? Because he bloody nailed the attitude.

The fact he is able to adapt his style to make the characters and this new world so convincing is all the proof you need of Butcher’s brilliance and versatility. The Aeronaut’s Windlass was a great read even if it wasn’t perfect—but then, few series openers often are. This book certainly made an impression on me with its dazzling world building and fantastic characters though, and I am most definitely on board for the sequel.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
421 reviews466 followers
October 19, 2015
4.5 Stars

Humans have ceased living on the surface of the world, (which is inhabited by any number of dangerous creatures) but instead live on spires, which are described as giant towers made of Spirestone. They travel to and from these spires via airships that are steam-driven, but seem mostly happy to stay on the spire they live on, unless they are one of the many merchants or privateers who own airships and thus spend most of their time in the air or part of the spire’s airfleet and thus also airbound.

Captain Grimm is one of the owners of such a vessel - a privateer vessel named the Predator who has a bit of a run-in with a legendary enemy vessel that he cannot hope to defeat, but luckily he avoids complete destruction and is confined to Spire Albion while his ship awaits repairs. Whilst Predator is waiting in the docks, Spire Albion is attacked by Spire Aurora and as part of his response the leader of the spire, the Spirearch, convinces Captain Grimm to join a team he has assembled to complete a mission of the utmost importance in the war against their enemies. Unbeknownst to them though, an old evil is maneuvering and pulling the strings on its puppets.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for an assembled team with a mission.

If you’re still not convinced, let your interest be piqued.
- Steam-powered airships (untold amounts of awesomeness)
- Mentally unstable etherealists that can kill you with a thought, but are very likeable.
- Super creepy villain obsessed with politeness and a penchant for killing.
- Talking cats. (WAY cooler than you can imagine)
- Amazing battles. On ships. In the Air… You can’t jump ship.
- Silkweavers. I know they sound harmless, but NO.
- Talking cats people! Imagine the smuggest, smoothest, most arrogant bad-ass you can and then imagine that it is a ginger cat.

The book does lack in terms of worldbuilding a bit, and I found myself very confused at the start and struggling with the pace which felt slow. Luckily this improves as the story progresses, not enough in my opinion, but sufficient to get a feel for everything. I really came to love the characters as the plot unfolded and the pace picked up significantly and never seized towards the end. I could not get enough of the grim captain, Captain Grimm (yep) and also thought Rowl was marvelous. Rowl is a cat btw. The cat societies in this world are done REALLY well. Jim Butcher is clearly owned by a cat.

Another excellent story by this author even though I would not have known it was him just by reading the book. It felt fresh and exciting and I am most definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the Cinder Spires series.


Image from Priscilla Spencer's Map Store
Profile Image for Jason.
795 reviews45 followers
August 19, 2015
Actual review:
So I got around to reading the thing. It’s, um…I think fans of the specific genre would likely like it. I found it slow, with the world hazily imagined, the characters generic in different ways with some POVs more tedious than others, and the overall premise promising in an unfulfilled and unoriginal way. I would say my interest took a steep decline as soon as the plot proper started - the protagonists going off to investigate the source of recent weirdness; I’m never convinced enough that I should care about their actions in this little quest.

I amused myself by imagining certain characters as other fictional creations - like the Big Bad as that spider-woman Digimon and the etherealists as the Lovegoods from Harry Potter. Though Ferus is more Dumbledore than Xeno, he’s as enjoyable as Xeno, so. I do like faux-Luna’s growing friendship with the poor, unexciting girl who’s supposed to be special for some reason...er, let’s call her Ginny. Much more realistic than semi-Ginny’s friendship with the Secretly Decent Rich Kids.
Rowl is Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but comes off about as threateningly as a KatyKat. Grimm is a bit like a bargain-bin mash-up of Malcolm Reynolds and Stormlight Archive’s Kaladin; he even has his own YoSafffBridge. Gwen seems to come from a Gail Carriger novel, but isn’t as funny or believable.

Pre-release..."preview": Grumble grumble. Given how the last 2 Dresden Files took 15 months to be released (vs. 12 or fewer months for the previous 11 books), it was already unlikely that Dresden 15 would come out this year. But now this new thing is apparently scheduled first. Cold Days is good but very unsatisfying given the dip in quality compared to past books. I don't see why it took so long...maybe writing something non-Dresden will make Butcher reinvigorated and thus bring us another great File next year? Perhaps that's what the Codex Alera was good for.
Profile Image for Serack.
24 reviews24 followers
September 30, 2015
Edited 10/30/15

I've heard Jim say that he enjoys goggles with steam-punk cosplay so much, that when he built the world for this series, he essentially started the worldbuilding around the question, "Why do the 'aeronauts' need goggles?" And yaknow, it worked out swell!

This book is in 3rd person limited to various characters’ perspective. Jim has been doing an excellent job of making the perspective/voice of the different characters unique and interesting.

As the first in the series, it starts out by introducing a group of characters that the ruler of "Spire Albion" assembles into kind of a troubleshooting team.

The world of The Cinder Spires is comprised of huge inhabited spires that reach up from an inhospitable and mist shrouded surface. All commerce between spires is through air ships. There are air ship battles with goggles and "ethric" crystal powered "cannon" and drive systems. Also, every single one of the "ethrealists" who can manipulate the energies in the crystals and such are a bit off. Some have obvious abnormalities like the inability to use doorknobs, or only speaking to their pet crystals, but the ones that seem to be perfectly normal enjoying tea with you are the ones that you truly have to look out for.

Oh, and there are talking cats with opposable thumbs, and they are tyrants. "I see that you are enjoying that your cellar has no rats. Perhaps if you would like to continue to enjoy this there will be a bowl of cream outside every morning."

Check back later, I intend to add an image to this review of Jim and many of his friends doing an amazing cosplay of the characters at DragonCon 2015 a few weeks before the release.
March 28, 2016
Ok, now I'm officially in love with this book.

“Are we too late?” Gwendolyn asked. Bridget had no notion whatsoever how the prim little noblewoman managed to load so much arrogance and confidence into her seemingly fatuous tone.

“Honestly,” Rowl said. “What are you so concerned with, Littlemouse?”
“I’ve never . . .” Bridget said. “I’ve never really been . . . outside.”
“There are many things you have never done,” Rowl responded. “To be frightened of them is of no use to you.”

A human of significantly less clumsiness than most came aboard, a small male, and despite its diminutive stature, it moved with a warrior’s confidence and wore a very large and fine hat.
Such hats often signified humans who considered themselves important, which was adorable for the first few moments and trying ever after.
The visitor had, however, entered the ship as if waiting to be permitted on another’s territory, which was the proper way to do things. Rowl had begun to approve of the human Grimm, who had thus far acted with less than utter incompetence in every aspect of his life. If Grimm was able to command such respect even from humans with very large hats, he might make suitable help, and even humans were wise enough to realize that good help was the most elusive of quarries.

Rowl found that disappointing. It seemed a great deal of trouble for him to spend half a lifetime bored up a ship-tree to gain very little in the way of an interesting change of environment. But such things were to be expected when dealing with humans. He would remain patient until they fumbled past such foolishness. Was he not, after all, a cat?

Not even his father would assert that it was practical to manage five humans. It was a well-known fact that humans became more addled than usual when running in herds.

“In my experience, the worst madmen don’t seem odd at all,” Grimm said. “They appear to be quite calm and rational, in fact. Until the screaming starts.” He glanced up to find Sorellin staring at him, frowning. “Let me put it this way, sir. If ever you meet an etherealist who does not seem odd, you will have ample reason for caution. An etherealist who speaks to things that are not there and cannot track the day of the week is par for the course. One who is perfectly well dressed, calmly spoken, and inviting you to tea? That is someone to be feared.”

Your ship is quite insouciant.

Bridget hadn’t been an agent of the Spirearch for very long, but she felt that she had the concept sufficiently surrounded to see that such a ploy was unlikely to work.

Each creature had something it excelled at, he supposed. Humans could manage knots easily, and cats could do everything else.

Littlemouse made a squeaking sound and scooped him up in her clumsy human arms and gave him a smothering hug.
Rowl leaned his cheek against hers and purred. After all, he could hardly be called unseemly if a human, even so exceptional a human as Littlemouse, got carried away in a fit of affection.
And besides, her sleeves were cleaning his fur.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 14, 2015
First off, I have to admit that I'm not extremely familiar with Jim Butcher's writing. I know he's wildly popular for his 'paranormal investigation' series, and I've read a few of his short stories in that vein, but fantasy-adventure & steampunk as genres are more up my alley, so I thought that this would be an excellent place to get more familiar with the author.

It wasn't terrible. However, I have to honestly say that it felt dashed-off and not always well-thought-out. The biggest problem might be that we are given a rather cool setting for the book, conceptually - but absolutely ZERO description of the setting is given until more than a third of the way through the book. Until then, we have no concept of where we are, or what the scenario is. Possible spoiler, if you don't want to know until a third of the way through the book: .

We've got two female main characters (whom I ended up differentiating by thinking "the big one" and "the small one," which doesn't really say a lot for their depth of character), and male counterparts for them. There's a roguish airship captain. We've also got a couple of eccentric magicians (I mean, "etherealists"), an elderly one and his young apprentice. And a cat. (I was juuust on the line between loving the cat's perspective on things, and thinking it tipped over into too-cutesy-ness.)

Those characters are all of Spire Albion, which is under attack by Spire Aurora. In this book, we do not find out anything substantial about the reasons behind this assault, so do not hold your breath waiting. The Bad Guys are just Bad Guys; the closest we get to their point of view is a glimpse of a few doubts on the part of the minions about the atrocities ordered by the Head Bad Guys. Of course, Albion must mobilize to defend itself.

The society is all vaguely 19th-century-ish, with duels and waistcoats and such. The feel is light-hearted, with plenty of humor, and non-stop action. A great deal of the book is either Hand-to-Hand Combat with Evil Spider-Monsters, or Nautically-Flavoured Airship Battles.

I'm going with three stars, because at no point was the book ever boring or wholly un-enjoyable - but it's not driving me to seek out more of the author's work, either. My main takeaway is that I feel like I wish the author had put more effort and passion into it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Roc for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,217 reviews2,049 followers
December 8, 2015
This is by the author of that great series, the Dresden Files, of which I have read every single book. So of course I had to try this new series too and I am very glad I did. Firstly it is nothing like the Dresden Files whatsoever. Most of the time I had to keep reminding myself that I was NOT reading a book by Brandon Sanderson, and that's a big compliment because he is one of my top five authors. I thought the world building was absolutely first class and what a marvelous, magical world it was. I became so attached to the characters I was seriously scared that any of them might die and boy did they come close at times. A thoroughly enjoyable roller coaster of a read and I can't wait to get hold of the next one.
Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,078 followers
October 8, 2015
Reading a Jim Butcher book is always a labor of love. Sometimes there is a fair amount of laboring that accompanies the love (Dresden Files, books 1-4), and sometimes the love just comes rushing right in (Codex Alera ftw). The Aeronaut's Windlass, for me, falls more into the Dresden Files category. It has a fair amount of dense worldbuilding, but since it's integrated organically into the story (i.e. the author starts out assuming you already live in that world, and only gradually starts filling in the blanks), you spend a fair amount of the book blinking in bewilderment as you try to figure out what exactly is happening/just happened.

I'm sure a million other people have probably said it before me, but the absolute best thing about this book? Rowl (the talking cat, for those who have not yet had the pleasure). Hands down. I think I could have happily read an entire book with Rowl as the sole protagonist. Jim does a brilliant job making Rowl adorable in his smug, superior, entirely feline way.

(insert random cat gif here)

Captain Grimm is a typical Jim Butcher hero - a little battered by the vagaries of fate, but honorable and smart and absolutely worth rooting for. The rest of the cast of characters are also, in typical Butcher style, colorful and vivid and likable. Of these, Bridget is probably my favorite. She's no-nonsense, a little prejudiced, yet kindhearted and valiant and oh-so-normal.

The Aeronaut's Windlass has everything one needs for a good fantasy romp. Action, adventure, pretty girls, good guys, bad guys, strange guys, talking cats, AIRSHIPS(!!!!), lots of pseudo-scientific mansplaining to show that it's "serious" fantasy and sheer unadulterated fun times.

And on a side note, can I just congratulate Jim for not falling into the clockwork trap? Unlike the vast majority of "steampunk" novels being churned out today, there is no appearance of modern technology masquerading as Victoriana through the use of the ubiquitous clockwork technology. In fact, I cannot think of a single instance of clockworks appearing in this excellent example of steampunk. Thank you godJim!

Would I recommend this book to a Jim Butcher fan? No, coz I won't need to, coz s/he probably pre-ordered it as soon as it became available on Amazon, just like yours truly. Would I recommend it to a first-time Butch reader? Yes, but perhaps a bit more cautiously, and with multiple warnings to get all the way through before judging. But for my part, I have to admit I loved it uncritically and wholeheartedly. After all, I am the woman who admitted publicly that I would read a grocery list if Jim wrote it!
Profile Image for Gavin.
861 reviews392 followers
October 10, 2015
I enjoyed this new steampunk fantasy series by Jim Butcher more than I enjoyed The Dresden Files, but I still did not love it. I've come to the conclusion that I just do not gel with something in Butcher's writing.

This was set in a world where humanity shelters in towering Spires from the ravages of the mysterious mist-shrouded surface world. The Spires stay connected with each other by virtue of the engineering and magical marvels that are the airships. They both keep the peace and enable trade. The Aeronaut's Windlass picks up just as the hostility between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora bursts into a full blown war.

The world was a fairly intriguing one. The Spires and steampuk technology was pretty cool as was the original crystal based ethereal magic system. If I had a criticism it was that Butcher was a bit flimsy with the world building and description and it was sometimes hard to form any more than a vague picture of his world. I'd also have preferred a bit more history. We never did learn what the surface world was like or why it was so hostile to life. Though perhaps those revelations are being saved for a later instalment in the series.

The story was interesting without being overly exciting. We had a bunch of POV characters, most from Spire Albion where the majority of the story took place, and they were all engaged in missions aimed at preventing invasions and infiltrations by Spire Aurora agents and airships.

The characters were a likeable enough bunch. Though most were a bit dull. The most memorable of the bunch was the talking cat Rowl! His observations on humanity often proved quite hilarious.

All in all I enjoyed this story without ever being fully engaged by it. It was fast paced enough with plenty of action, but for some reason that I cannot quite pinpoint none of the happenings resonated all that much with me on an emotional level.

I might read the second in the series or I might not.

Rating: 3 stars.

Audio Note: I thought Euan Morton did a decent job with the audio.

Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,170 reviews614 followers
January 19, 2018
As a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, I’ve been looking forward to reading this foray of his into the world of steampunk mixed with magic. And it was a lot of fun. I loved the idea of the steam airships cleverly using energy drawn from the ether and fed into crystals. I also liked the etherealists, Ferus and Folly who could utilize those currents for magic and healing.
I mostly liked the world building – the idea of everyone living in spires built onto a toxic world but I would have liked to know a bit more about the world itself and what existed beyond the spires of Albion and the skies above. I also mostly liked the characters, but felt they were a bit flat and weren’t as interesting as Butcher could have made them. Rowl the cat was one of my favourite characters with his snide remarks about humans and other cats. However, I didn’t feel that invested in the main characters, Captain Grimm or Gwendoline Lancaster or even the baddies, Caliope and Madame Cavendish. They all seemed a bit type-cast without individual personalities.
Would I read a sequel? Probably. Jim Butcher is such a good writer and has created some great characters in his Dresden series, that maybe now that he has established his new world, he might be able to invest more in the characters. And did I mention, it was a lot of fun to read.
Profile Image for Carmel (Rabid Reads).
706 reviews381 followers
September 29, 2015
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads.

I finally caved, and started listening to Jim Butcher’s THE DRESDEN FILES in audio this year, so while I’m still busy playing catch-up on that series, I was excited to be able to get in on the ground floor of THE CINDER SPIRES. The humour was not along the same lines as what I’ve come to equate with this author, but the world-building and characters were, and two out of three ain’t bad! And, in all fairness, Rowl probably made this novel 3/3 for cat people, I just can’t in good conscience admit to that for fear of retaliation from my fur babies.

Book 1 has to be THE trickiest installment to write in my opinion because they have the huge task of making an awesome first impression while also developing the protagonists / secondaries / world enough that readers want more without reaching the critical information overload point of no return. Butcher cheated a bit by buying himself extra fleshing out time with his 640 pages, but overall he used the added length to his advantage with epic airship shoot outs, Steampunk-ish gadgets / beasties, and kickass story telling.

I enjoyed the alternating POVs; the separations were distinct, the locations were identified at the start of each chapter, and once I got to know the characters, it was easy to pick out which one was MC’ing just by their dialogues, and narrative styles. I bring this up because this may very well end up being one of the bigger critique points of this series; this particular style can be difficult to follow if you spread out your reading sessions, so essentially what I’m getting at is that this is not a “lunch break” kind of novel!

I’m assuming that Grimm is going to be the main honcho of THE CINDER SPIRES, although I’m not ruling Gwendolyn, Benedict, Bridget, Rowl, Ferus, or Folly out yet either because several of them had a comparable presence. I can also grudgingly acknowledge that the prince of the Silent Paws was right on point; the author combined a cat’s indifference, God complex and snobbery into a cute package with attitude, and by the end I was THIS close to buying him his favourite dumplings.

Longer than your average book; however THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS was time well spent.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
May 18, 2016
Ooookkkaaayyy.... I picked this up as soon as it was released, and it sat on my "currently reading shelf" for a while as I finished some library books.

I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series. That series is not only my favorite Urban Fantasy series but also simply among my favorite books.

Here I can't be quite as enthusiastic as about his Dresden series. I would however (so far at least) say I like it maybe a bit better than his Codex Alera series.

Did i need to rate the various series like that? Oh well.

We start out in a world where humans live in huge spires that extend into the air. They travel in air ships powered and controlled by crystals. Yeah I know, that's a quick and dirty intro that may leave you more confused than not but the book explains it better...it has more space to do it.

On the plus side the book builds it's plot and draws it's characters well. The story does have a rather large cast of characters to keep track of but they will fall into place pretty quickly. Butcher has the grace not to use consonant heavy names that resemble each other so you end up thinking of them as "Q guy 1 and Q guy 2". You will (i think) get into the book's action and story very quickly. On the down side the book does have several very slow sections where the story gets close to bogging down. However that doesn't last and the book always pulls itself back onto the main track.

The book (for those of you who like me are Dresden fans) is told in third person rather than first this of course allows JB to move from character to character with an omnipotent voice. This is on the whole done smoothly and our main characters seem to me to remain (so far anyway) in a good balance. (By the way one of our main characters is a cat and he's handled very well. For those of us who love cats there are some chuckles here.)

All in all (I say that a lot don't I?) while I can't put this in the same class as the Dresden (really for me anyway not nearly in that league) books it's a good read and I can recommend it. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Mark.
486 reviews83 followers
October 8, 2015
A new series from butcher which shows how good a writer he has come.

It does suffer with first book in a series problems, like not enough world building and at the time been not enough is known about the characters and their histories, in other words we dont know what makes them kick.

I did enjoy this book, a slow start but the last 200 pages is non stop action which I couldnt put it down. So I ended up read that section in about 3 hours of non stop reading.

recommended for fantasy fans. And fantasy CAT LOVERS.

Profile Image for Ashley.
2,647 reviews1,691 followers
May 11, 2016
I ended up being quite fond of this book, to the point where I stayed up an extra two hours past my bedtime to finish it. It's a solid steampunk fantasy book--nothing revolutionary, just *fun*, and I can see great potential in future books of the series.

Basically, The Aeronaut's Windlass takes place in a world where humanity lives in outrageously tall structures called Spires, which were built thousands and thousands of years before, and whose origins are shrouded. The surface of the planet (Earth?) is covered in dense mists, and the surface and the planet and the animals that live there are the stuff of nightmares for the characters in this book. Most people grow up never even seeing the sky. Each spire is basically its own country, and when they do travel between spires, they do it on airships that are powered by organically grown crystals. It's through these crystals (and steampower, of course) that they have electricity and all the rest of their technology, although the culture seems to be very close to Edwardian. Oh, and in this world, cats are intelligent and have their own language, which few humans speak.

But all that's just background. The book actually cycles though several POVs. We've got the grim airship captain (whose name is actually Grimm) who used to be in the Fleet, but is now a disgraced Privateer; the wealthy young noblewoman who longs to prove herself; the young ingénue who is very tall and whose best friend is a cat; and of course, the cat himself. His name is Rowl, and he is a prince. We get POV chapters for him, and I loved every second of it. Butcher absolutely nails the cat attitude without making it ridiculous for him to be an actual character.

Oh, and then of course we've got this books version of a magician, an etherealist master named Ferus, who is a cross between a mad scientist and a wizard, and his young apprentice Folly. The "magic" system in this book was intriguing solely for what it does to these two characters, who have some of the best lines and moments in the book. They both could easily have fallen into the trap of the mad character, but they don't, and I ended up loving both of them (especially Folly) by the end.

All of these people are brought together when a neighboring Spire declares war on Spire Albion, and they are sent on a covert mission to gather intelligence for the coming battles.

Mostly I think my theory holds about Jim Butcher, that he's just not great at beginnings of stories. I'm not talking about beginnings of individual books--Skin Game, for instance, was an A+ book from page one. I'm talking beginnings of series, beginnings of worldbuilding, beginnings of characters. This book was pleasant enough to read, once I got past the initial confusion of a new fantasy world, but it took me until almost halfway through before I started really warming up to the characters. I feel like this is because Butcher does his best character work when he's putting them through hell. His books tend to take place over short periods of time, during which they are put through the ringer. They tend to be types at the beginning, and we get to know them as things get moving. This makes later events have more weight, but it does tend to make his beginnings hard going.

The characters in this book aren't nearly as underdeveloped as his characters were in the first few Dresden Files books, but the second half of the book is most definitely stronger than the first. Also, it has TOP NOTCH action sequences, particularly the aerial battles.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed this, and I look forward to further books in the series. If you're in the mood for a solid but unspectacular fantasy, this might do, and if it goes anything like the trajectory for the Dresden Files, later books could be AMAZING.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,274 followers
April 19, 2021
The rate at which characters are introduced, along with Houses, tribes, spires, and societal ranks is enough to make one's head spin. Where is the exposition? Why are the character descriptions so late in coming? Where is the heart and charming character development usually found in Jim Butcher's novels?

A somewhat confusing beginning. "We'll rake their web hard, force them down, drop a buoy, and let Rook go after them." Huh? "The blast had also smashed two of her ventral planes to splinters, and as she rolled, she began to yaw as well." Say what?

One character in particular (you'll know it when you see it) adds an engaging, humorous perspective to the story. This character is the book's most unique (and redeeming) feature. Sadly, the chapters with this character are few and far between.

[Note: Concerning a matter of personal annoyance . . . Behold, Captain Grimm, who is never without his hat, because (as mentioned several times in the book) a captain without a hat is the most appalling thing ever. See him, depicted on the book cover, wearing no hat.]
Profile Image for Emma.
972 reviews975 followers
October 14, 2016
Sometimes I'm so easily pleased... This was written by Jim Butcher and it had warrior cats in it that can speak. I mean, honestly, what else can a hungover reader want in a bit of light entertainment?

No, it's not the same as his Codex series or the Dresden one. Yet it still has some of the snark and a much more lovable set of characters. In any case, being a crazy cat person, Butcher could probably have taken out all the humans and i'd still have enjoyed it as much. It's a fun read: some fighting, a few betrayals, a bit of romance, surprises here and there, warrior cats that speak. You get the picture. It's one of those books that walk the boundary between YA and adult fiction. Do I love it yet? No. But I will read the next one.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,323 reviews153 followers
October 1, 2017
Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity. Within their halls, the ruling aristocratic houses develop scientific marvels, foster trade alliances, and maintain fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Jim Butcher is one of my favorite authors and I thoroughly enjoyed the Aeronaut's Windlass. The world is interesting; a great steampunk and traditional fantasy mix, and I am looking forward to more world building and character development in the next books in the series. The characters were all great. I can't think of one that I didn't like. If you like cats you will love this book. I loved the addition of Rowl the cat, and I think this book would be appropriate for my teen daughter to read even though it's written for adults. I ended up reading excerpts aloud to her when the point of view shifted to Rowl.

I think besides Rowl, what I liked the most about this book were the airship battles and the quirky etherealists. I loved the etherealists and can't wait to read more about them in coming books. I'm looking forward to reading more and hopefully also finding out a lot more about the world on the ground.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for Karissa.
3,912 reviews192 followers
October 13, 2015
I was incredibly excited to get a copy of this book to review through NetGalley. I absolutely adore Butcher’s Dresden Files. I also read the Codex Alera series and thought it decent. This book has more of a steampunk feel to it...and it was incredibly disappointing and boring. I finally gave up reading it 55% of the way through.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship the Predator, his ship has taken heavy damage during an encounter with another ship. Despite being forced out of Spire Albion’s armed forces he is fiercely loyal to to Albion. When Grimm returns to port at Spire Albion to repair his ship he finds it under attack and does his best to help the people of Albion. However, the Spirearch of Albion has different plans for Grimm and asks that he accompany some young cadets and some etherists on a mission of extreme importance. Grimm agrees, but only because the Spirearch also agrees to repair the Predator to her former glory.

The story switches viewpoint between Captain Grimm and some cadets who are training to be in the military. The three cadets the story focuses on are Gwen (a noble woman determined to learn to fight), Benedict (a warriorborn who also fights and is related to Gwen), and Bridget (a young woman from a failing noble house who is struggling to keep her house afloat).

I really really struggled with reading this and finally gave up about 55% of the way through the story. Pretty much every aspect of this book is poorly done. The biggest downfall of the book for me was the sheer boredom of reading it; I seriously fell asleep every time I started reading this book...it was soooo boring.

The world seems half-formed and is hard to picture and imagine; there just isn’t enough description or reference points for the reader to figure out what type of world they are in.

There are a ton of characters thrown at the reader quickly and none of them are all that interesting. They are all very stereotypical to the point of being caricatures. You have Gwen the spoiled noble woman who is petite and beautiful but tough when she needs to be; you have Folly the insane magic user, and Captain Grimm the misunderstood yet noble ship captain. I didn’t find any of them to be interesting or engaging.

Then there is the story. I was halfway through the book and still have no idea what this story is about. Spire Albion was attacked and is now starting a war with another Spire who attacked them. Then our characters are supposed to leave Spire Albion for an important reason but we never really know what it is.

Next there are the airship battles. I am really not a fan of reading about either naval or airship battles. I always have trouble picturing what’s going on unless the scenes are really well done. The scenes with Captain Grimm were especially excruciating to get through because I just could not picture what was happening. This is more of a personal preference thing..but me and ship battles just don’t mix, they do not interest me even a tiny bit.

The only positive thing I can say about the story is that the writing flows well and there weren’t any technical flaws with how it was written.

Overall this story was a big disappointment, especially given how excited I was to start a new Jim Butcher series. The story is boring and doesn’t seem to have a point, the world is strangely undefined, and the characters are forgettable and unengaging. Every time I picked up this book and started reading I immediately got sleepy and fell asleep. I will definitely not be reading this series.

Please don’t let this book be the first example of steampunk literature you read. There are a ton of great steampunk books out there. If you are interested in reading steampunk I would check out any of the following series, they are all great steampunk reads: House Immortal by Devon Monk (okay this ones not totally steampunk, but it is awesome), the Treasure Chronicles by Jordan Elizabeth, The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, The Electric Empire by Viola Carr, The Iron Seas by Meljean Brook, The Baskerville Affair by Emma Jane Holloway, and the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest.
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 28 books53.3k followers
October 8, 2015
Would ANYONE be surprised if I said that this was great? No? Good. Because it is. Typical Butcher: ooh, look, new environment and concept set, guess I'll just make myself at home.

Steampunkish in that it features airships and tea, this is a long way from the clockwork heartlands. It's more like Butcher's quasi-Roman Alera. It's immediately compelling, has a new engineering and a new magic.

It's huge fun.

Shocking, eh?
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