Review – The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut’s Windlass
By: Jim Butcher
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Roc
Series: The Cinder Spires (Book #1)
Award: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2016), Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Fantasy Adventure (2015, Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2015)

I finally, finally, read The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher. This was another binge read. A whopping 570 pages in a day. And it was great. And I loved it. And you need to read it too.

Okay, okay. I know. I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s work, so maybe this isn’t as un-biased a review as it could be. And, sure, I have a thing for binge reading giant fantasy books. But, really, guys, this book!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first book in a new series by Jim Butcher. The tale is set in a fantasy world filled with airships and aeronauts, people living in giant spires far above the earth’s surface, and a surprise attack that throws the country into immediate war. And it isn’t like other fantasy series.

Yes, I said fantasy, and I’m sticking to it. I know that more than five hundred people have tagged this as Steampunk on Goodreads. I know some people who’ve complained because they expected a steampunk novel, which isn’t what they got. So, what, exactly can we categorize this book as?

This is flying ships and aeronauts a la Final Fantasy, not anything remotely resembling steampunk. Nothing here is steam powered, and it isn’t particularly Victorian. (For that matter it doesn’t have a lot of science fiction in it at all; the book is much more rooted in fantasy.) Everything is crystal powered. So Crystalpunk? Is that a thing? Can we make it a thing?

The Aeronaut’s Windlass has pretty much nothing in common with steampunk. It does read very similarly to a JRPG – linear storyline video games largely produced in Japan. The use of crystals for power and the very not-steampunk airships are both widely seen in JRPG’s. Rowl even functions as the mascot character seen largely in the ‘Tales of’ games. That said, if you don’t like the storyline and themes in those sorts of games you probably will not like this book.

As soon as you open the book it grabs you by the hand and charges full steam ahead. It doesn’t stop to give beautiful, yet wordy descriptions of the locations. It doesn’t stop for any long infodump or exposition. I greatly respect this, especially in a genre ripe with infodumps. However, there were parts where I felt just a hint more of an explanation would have been prudent. This goes for description in general (of locations, etc.) as well. I don’t think I got as good a feel for the world as I really could have due to limited description.

I feel much the same about the characters. I liked them all. They were well written, if not written great. And, as the book continued, we got a bit of development and insight into their past and personalities. However, this doesn’t have the wonderful, extraordinarily memorable characters of The Dresden Files, the sort of characters that we expect from this author. Not that these characters are bad, they just aren’t handled with as much finesse as characters in some of his other works.

Overall, I liked this book. While I’d love to be able to give it a solid five stars, I simply can’t. Still, it’s a good start to a new series, and I’m excited to see where it goes. If you like fantasy, or Final Fantasy/JRPG airships I’d definitely suggest giving The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher a try.

Read If:
you’re looking for a new gigantic fantasy book to read, you need more giant airships in your life, you’re looking to read something that has the same feel of a Final Fantasy or ‘Tales of’ game

Don't Read If:
You don’t like cats (there are chapters from the cat’s point of view), you want lots of description in your fantasy, you don’t like alternating points of view

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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