Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Book Impressions: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 22, 2016

AeronautsWindlassCoverIt took me a long time to get started on the Harry Dresden series, by Jim Butcher. Everyone was talking about it, but I thought I’d be smart and wait until the series was further along before starting. Then, you know, I wouldn’t have to wait so long to get to the next one. In retrospect, that didn’t turn out so well. Yes, the books were as great as everyone said. Yes, I didn’t have to wait for a year for the next one to come out, and I was able to devour one right after the other…

… for a while. Then suddenly, I had to face the excruciating wait. And just like everybody else, I had to wait to find out what happens after the shocking ending of Changes. And there are plenty more books to come. So much for my cunning plan.

So I decided not to bother waiting for Jim Butcher’s newest fantasy series, The Cinder Spires. Especially when I heard there’d by airships.

The first book is The Aeronaut’s Windlass. It does have airships… and airship battles! Awesome stuff that sounds a bit like 3D versions of the nautical battles in Alexander Kent’s Bolitho novels. Is it steampunk? Yeah, kinda, although I’d treat it more as fantasy-with-steampunk-leanings. Which is 100% cool – I’d rather have things be original and interesting rather than fitting nicely in a subgenre box. The setting is exciting and intriguing. There are some firearms, crystal-powered energy-blast shooting gauntlets, etheric wizards, talking cats (assuming you speak their language), city-states built on top of colossal towers (the “spires”), and horrifying, deadly monsters covering the surface of the world (and, occasionally, in the clouds).

Obviously, it’s a ripe setting for adventure. The characters – both protagonists and villains – are richly drawn and very exciting. The book cover focuses on Captain Grimm, a disgraced former naval officer now turned privateer, but he’s really only one of an ensemble of characters. It’s hard to single out a “main” character; there are several that would fill the bill. In fact, that might be my biggest complaint of the book: there are perhaps too many points of view. I don’t know what I’d cut, though, so it’s a pretty minor complaint.

The magic system in this world comes at a high cost: the practitioners are universally insane. Or at least appear insane to everyone else, and have trouble dealing with everyday life. Captain Grimm is a bit more used to dealing with these etherealists than some of the others, and has a great quote: “The worst madmen don’t seem odd at all… They appear to be quite calm and rational, in fact. Until the screaming starts.” That accurately describes the principle villain of the story. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, so you can enjoy it yourself.

As usual with Butcher’s works, this is a high-action adventure. You can’t go more than two chapters before something explodes, bad guys (or monsters) burst through the door, or somebody gets captured. Come ready for action. You won’t be disappointed.

My impression: Loved it, can’t wait for the rest of the series.

As an amusing side-note: The cover art for the Dresden series always depicts Harry Dresden with a wide-brimmed hat. In the book, he’s never described as wearing a hat. It’s become something of an inside joke. So for The Cinder Spires, Captain Grimm wears a hat much of the time, particularly when aboard his ship. So naturally, the artist had to portray the captain without a hat on this cover.


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