Thursday, September 29, 2016

Book Review: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

It should come as no surprise that we love Jim Butcher around here. So, when I heard a few years ago that he was going to write a steampunk novel, I was more excited than an overfilled, boiling tea kettle. I’m happy to say that The Aeronaut’s Windlass did not disappoint.

Ever since humanity can remember, they have had to live in spires, huge towers that protect them from the dangerous surface of the planet below. Captain Grimm commands the AMS Predator, a well-known merchant ship that calls Spire Albion home. When the cold war between Spire Albion and the neighboring Spire Aurora suddenly erupts into violence, Captain Grimm and his crew are persuaded by Albion’s Spirearch to help defend their home.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is told from various perspectives throughout the novel. Each character has their own unique voice throughout their given chapters. Gwendolyn, a lady of the aristocracy, is proud and brash, Captain Grimm has the tone of a swashbuckler with a conscience, and Rowl, Prince of the Silent Paws, a tribe of cats, sounds exactly like all cat lovers imagine their feline friends should.

I appreciated the interior illustrations that Priscilla Spencer created for Butcher’s new world. Not only do the illustrations give the reader a layout for Captain Grimm’s ship, Predator, but also, provide maps of the various “habbles” the characters visit in their adventures. I found myself flipping back to the illustrations in the front often to better flush out the picture Butcher was painting in my head. Being such a huge fan of Gail Carriger’s steampunk universe, I was happy to see that Butcher created his own steampunk world that had its own quirks and specialties. However…

Would I call The Aeronaut’s Windlass steampunk? Yes and no. Woven into the story are all the marks of a steampunk world: a monarch-type figure, a ruling aristocracy, skirts, airships, and tea. (Heaven forbid you mess up one of the character’s tea…*shudder*.) That being said, very little in this universe actually runs on steam power. Almost everything: weapons, ship engines, and even tea kettles are all powered by energy that comes from crystals. I liked this idea because it set this novel separate from the various steampunk stories that I have already read. I am, therefore, going to create a new genre for this series: crystalpunk. That fits nicely.

I have actually read Aeronaut’s twice since it was released. I’ll be honest, the first time through, I got stuck. I didn’t like the nasty, insect-like creatures that Butcher created for this series. Mainly because they reminded me too strongly of the Vord, the nasty, insect-like creatures who almost destroyed the world in Butcher's Codex Alera series. The second time I read through Aeronaut’s Windlass, I ignored the feeling of déjà vu and read the story exactly the way it was on the page. Then I loved it.

If you have read The Dresden Files or the Codex Alera series, you will probably enjoy this new series. The multiple points of view story, a snarky narrator, and the nasty, insect-like baddies will almost feel like coming home, but into a different universe.

Emily is looking forward to recording day this Saturday and the green chili enchiladas they will have for supper. She's starting to drool already. 

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