Author: Jim Butcher
Length: 630 pages
Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: The Collection Management Services Area of IndyPL, after I asked really nicely
Plot Basics: In the world of the Spires, the skies are protected by airships, mercantilism ruled over by aristocratic households and cats have their own kingdoms in all the Habbles, even as the Spires continue a long-standing cold war. When merchant (read pirate) Captain Grimm’s airship Predator is attacked and the ship damaged, he is offered a job from the head of Spire Albion in exchange for repairing his ship. Grimm is joined by a young team of Spire Guards to infiltrate another Habble to figure out what the enemy might be up to, even as an older and more dangerous enemy is beginning to awaken.
Banter Points: Aeronaut’s Windlass is like Master & Commander meets a Steampunk version of Star Trek-Firefly mashup. (Honestly, I hope Butcher pitched the book that way, because if I were an agent and somebody queried me with that, I’d buy it in a heartbeat).
The beginning was a little slow as Butcher had to set up a lot of world-building and a lot of characters, all with back stories and personalities, etc. By about halfway through this book, things really got going and then it became a lot of fun.
This story is like the sea battles from Master & Commander happening in the air, with the banter of Kirk and Scotty going on to keep the magic steam/crystal engines running, all headed up by a noble but disgraced commander, a la Malcom Reynolds from Firefly.
One of the fun parts is Butcher’s creation of the cat kingdoms. He absolutely nails the perspective that cats must have about humans, how they should be treated and gives them a really integral part to play. If Rowl isn’t your favorite character by the time you’re done, you must be a terrible human being.
Bummer Points: If you’re looking for Steampunk Harry Dresden, this book isn’t it. That was what I went in reading for, and when I could abandon that idea, then I liked it.
Also, if you’ve read Butcher’s Codex Alera (or at least part of it, like me), you’ll notice a striking similarity with the overall plot (aka, warring regions, aristocracy and a NEW! ancient enemy.)
Word Nerd Recommendation: It’s a fun read, but I suspect by the time the whole series is out, I’ll have to go back and re-read everything.