Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Title: The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Steampunk/Science Fiction
Series: The Cinder Spires (Book 1)
Format: Hardcover; 640 pages
Publisher: Roc; 1st edition (September 29, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0451466802
ISBN-13: 978-0451466808
Author's Website:
Notes: I borrowed this one from the library.

“Events are in motion in the Spires,” she said quietly. “Signs and portents appear. No fewer than four Fleet aeronauts have reported sightings of an Archangel, and swear that they were neither drunk nor sleeping. Spire Aurora has recalled her embassy from Spire Albion, and our fleets have already begun to skirmish. The lower habbles have become increasingly restive and . . .” 

Esterbrook tilted his head. “My lady?” 

“The crystals are . . . behaving strangely.” 

Esterbrook arched a skeptical eyebrow. 

Lady Lancaster shook her head. “I don’t know how else to explain it. But I’ve worked with them since I was a small child, and . . . something isn’t right.” She sighed and turned to regard the shattered door. “There are dark times ahead of us, old friend. Strife such as has not been seen since the breaking of the world. 

The signs are all there, tensions run high, and war seems inevitably on the horizon. When an immensely precise attack on the Spirearch suggests a traitor exists within the upper ranks of the Spire, a group of unlikely heroes will band together and become the Spires best hope for coming out of the conflict intact. They will be the eyes, ears, and arm of their Spirearch.

The Players

Captain Francis Madison Grimm was dishonorably discharged from the fleet for cowardice, but under pressure he seems anything but a coward. He presently is captain of  the Albion Merchant Ship  "AMS" Predator. While his men are not highly trained in combat, they are large in number and loyal to their captain.

Bridget Tagwynn. of the House of Admiral Tagwynn is one of the last of her line. While her house is not as wealthy as it once was, it still is considered to be one of the most loyal among the aristocracy. She is a new recruit of the guard and is still in need of training. She can speak cat which will help with negotiations between man and cats.

Rowl of the Silent Paws tribe, kit to Maul, chief of the Silent Paws is not your average cat. A prince among his kind, he is the heir to his tribe. His skills for spying will prove invaluable, and contrary to belief, a cat can take down an opponent many times larger than himself. He considers Bridget (aka Little Mouse) to be his human.

Gwendolyn Margaret Elizabeth Lancaster is an aristocrat whose family is one of the most influential in the Spire. She is 16 and has just begun training for the Guard, but already shows extraordinary skill. She is smart but strongheaded. Her family owns the vatteries which create the trim and lift crystals which power ships, and many other crystals used in weapons. Her knowledge of crystals will prove invaluable.

Benedict Michael Sorellin-Lancaster, cousin to Gwendolyn, has already proved himself loyal to the Spire. He is a Guardsman and is warrior born which allows him to have almost inhuman strength and speed.

Efferus Effrenus Ferus, master etherealist, and his apprentice, Folly, can harness etheric currents and act as conduits to redirect the energy into other items such as weapons and can even be used to propel themselves elsewhere giving off the appearance of flying. This makes them very powerful and potentially dangerous especially since all etherealists eventually go mad as the etheric energy slowly takes a toll on their mental state.

This was a highly entertaining and fast paced story. The world is intriguing, but we know so little about it, and what we do know is given to us sparingly in bits and pieces scattered here and there. Most, if not all, of humanity lives above the surface in spires. The ground is covered in dangerous creatures you don't want the misfortune of meeting. Each Spire is ruled by a Council and has a Spirearch. Each Spire appears to be run as if it is its own country, and is independent of the others. People travel from Spire to Spire on floating air ships which are powered by lift and trim crystals. The Spires themselves were created by people referred to as "the Builders", but we know absolutely nothing else about them except that after the creation of the Spires they disappeared or left.

The airships brought to mind images from the movie Treasure planet and a bit of the Ether Chronicles by Zoe Archer.

Of course, Rowl reminded me more of Puss in Boots from Dreamwork's Shrek even though the book NEVER had him use weapons, wear a hat, walk on two paws, or speak English with or without Antonio Banderas' sexy accent (I know too bad). Perhaps it was the mention of his ginger coat and his superior attitude that did it?:

Despite the cartoon conjuring, I rather liked the book. The characters were three dimensional and complex yet easy to relate to. Each has something to prove and something at stake. My greatest wish is that we get more world building in future books. I want to know the history of the world. Is it ours years in the future, perhaps an alternate universe, or a totally different one? What forced humanity up into the spires? Is it a recent occurrence or something that happened millennium ago? Who are the Builders, and are angels abundant in this world? (There was mention of Archangels and I wasn't sure if they were literal Archangels or something else.) Why are the Spires so divided and just how many exist? Does anyone still live on the surface and what is at the base of the Spires? The list goes on and on.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. While a huge book, it didn't feel that way while I was reading. The series holds major promise and I can't wait to see where Mr. Butcher will take this one. While there is a budding romance between two characters. it's definitely not the focus of the story, therefore, I'm foregoing my Romance Rating Scale. I can't wait to read the next in the series. I'm definitely marking this series as one to watch. I can't wait to find out what exactly happened to Grimm and his crew that had him dishonorable discharged from Fleet.(By the way that is not a spoiler by any means.) There were so many tantalizingly loose ends dangling from this one with a tempting cliffhanger that I'm all but salivating with want for the sequel right now.

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