Name: The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Number of Pages: 630 (Paperback)
Published: 29th September 2015 by Orbit
Jim Butcher, the number one bestselling author of the Dresden Files, begins a new series set in a gloriously imagined world of noble families, marvellous technology and magic-wielding warriors.
Since time immemorial, humanity has lived inside the Spires, habitats towering for miles over the dangerous, monster-infested surface of the world. Captain Grimm of the merchant airship Predator was dismissed from Spire Albion’s military in disgrace – now his ship and crew are all he has, and he’s fiercely loyal to both. When the Predator is severely damaged in combat, Grimm is offered a choice – take on a clandestine mission for Albion’s leaders, or stay grounded for good.
And even as Grimm undertakes this perilous 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… – from Goodreads
I’ve been sitting here for a while now, looking at a blank screen wondering, how on earth do I review this book? Where to start? There’s so much to say.
The story takes place around Spire Albion, and delivers action right from the first page.
People have lived on spires for years, since the surface became uninhabitable. The spires have several Habbles, and Habble Morning comes under attack from the forces of Spire Aurora, a rival Spire. The attack is planned with precision, which leads to the belief that an enemy may be within.
And so the Spirearch of Albion assembles a group to venture out to Habble Landing to try and find out more about the enemy.
The group at the heart of this story is an interesting mix.
Captain Grimm finds himself grounded after a skirmish with an enemy ship. Predator, his airship, needs vast amounts of repair, more costly than Grimm could possibly afford, so he finds himself with little choice than to accept the mission of the Spirearch, who offers to replace the power crystals that Predator so desperately needs.
Grimm is reluctant as he has a history with the Fleet that saw him discharged for cowardice. There’s clearly more to it, but Grimm doesn’t talk about his past, and doesn’t particularly want to get involved with serving again. He’s enjoyed his freedom as a privateer. Once he accepts the mission however, he’s fully on board, and willingly joins battle to protect those he is travelling with. These characters include…
Gwendolyn Lancaster, the only daughter of one of the most powerful Houses, who wants to join the Spirearch’s Guard. She’s pretty no-nonsense, and the type to shoot first and consider the consequences later. She’s proper and ladylike but doesn’t back away from a challenge or a fight, regardless who the opponent is.
Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster is Gwen’s Warriorborn cousin. The Warriorborn are great, slightly feline in appearance (they have catlike eyes) and with great strength and agility. Benedict is a little older and more experienced in working for the Guard, and accompanies the group to Habble Landing in order to protect Master Ferus.
Ferus is an etherealist, and some say he is half-mad, but he’s also highly perceptive of the world around him and the nature of the Enemy, even if he does have great trouble with doorknobs. He has an apprentice, Folly, a young girl learning her skills and powers. Folly is charmingly odd, talking to her small jars of crystals rather than directly to other people. I loved her quirkiness and when her powers start to show, well, you wouldn’t want to mess with young Folly. She is also apparently able to glimpse future events, which is scary as her dreams show great destruction.
The etherealists have great powers, which some choose to use for less than honourable purposes whilst maintaining a highly respectable and socially graceful façade.
Also part of the team who travel to Habble Landing is Bridget Tagwynn, a young woman who reluctantly leaves her father behind in order to serve, and initially has little wish to go. She is mentored by Benedict and the two of them become close.
And I cannot mention Bridget with out mentioning…
Rowl. A cat. A… talking cat.
I was totally charmed by Rowl of House Silent Paws, who even has viewpoint chapters and clearly regards himself and the whole of cat-kind as far more intelligent and brave than any human. He calls Bridget ‘Littlemouse’, and they converse together as Bridget can speak Cat. For all the conflict between the humans, there is equally as much going on in the cat world.
I love the mix in this story. Airships of the Fleet go to war with cannons and muskets, which feels quite historical, but then there are crystals of power loaded into the weapons cannons, shrouds to shield the ships from enemy fire, ethersilk armour, and gauntlets containing crystals with destructive power.
There’s scheming and intrigue, and threats from both humans and creatures, as things from the surface are apparently finding their way into the spire. A silkweaver sounds like an innocent little thing, right? Um, possibly not…
The villain here really is something of a smiling assassin, and there are also greater powers at work, which I hope will be revealed a little more in further books.
I’ll definitely be looking out for the next Cinder Spires book.