Book Review of “The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass”


© James Pyles for photo

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I was at the public library weeks ago looking for another book when I came across Jim Butcher’s novel The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass. It was published in 2016 as the first of a series, but according to Butcher’s website, the second in this collection will probably be published this year.

I’d never heard of Butcher before, but he’s been Hugo nominated more than once and has written the well-known (to everyone but me) Dresden Files novel series. I’ve been criticized by “real science fiction fans” that I’m not a “true fan” because I don’t have an encyclopedia-like  knowledge of all things SciFi. Oh well.

At 630 pages, it took me a while to read, especially since I can’t always find large blocks of time for reading. So after renewing it once, I finally finished it off this morning. I’m really glad I came across it. I was attracted to the cover mainly and checked it out on a whim.

The book is set in a fantasy/steampunk universe where people live in floating cities called “spires.” There are royal houses, a more conventional governmental system, a military made up of marines and an airship navy, and freebooters such as Captain Grimm and his ship the AMS Predator.

If you’re interested in action, fight scenes, and explosions, this book is for you. Butcher handles everything from hand-to-hand combat to aerial combat sequences with equal expertise. But there’s also the worldbuilding and this world is complex.

Butcher brings together an odd teams from varying backgrounds and successfully has them fulfill their differing roles. This includes Grimm who left the fleet under less than ideal circumstances and now commands a light cruiser he’s sworn to use in protecting his spire.

Gwendolyn Lancaster is the headstrong daughter of a house that is in charge of growing the crystals used as the main power source for airships. She could have gotten out of her obligatory military service but chose not to over her mother’s objections.

Benedict, Gwen’s cousin is serving in the military and is “warriorborn” which basically means he has enhanced strength and senses.

Bridget Tagwynn is also an heiress of a royal house but they fell out of favor and are forced to run a meat “vattery”. Bridget is “owned” by a cat named Rowl who, like all cats in this universe, has human-like intelligence and often must rescue Bridget as she has also just joined the military.

There’s a form of energy that can be harnessed called “Etheric energy.” Airships use it to fly driven by their crystals and Etherealist Ferus and his apprentice Folly manipulate it like magic. Military weapons range from swords to writer-worn energy devices.

In addition to action, there are secret plots, sinister giant spiders, tribes of cats, and much skullduggery. The book is equally enjoyable as adult adventure/fantasy, but would also be appropriate for teens.

The plot is too involved to really get into but the reader is launched into a world of rich detail that will certainly make for a grand series.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I find one or more quotes from a book I’ve read. This is the one from Aeronaut:

“It’s a tradition,” Grimm said. “Were traditions rational, they’d be procedures.”

Don’t ask me why. I just like it.

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass definitely gets my five stars on Amazon. I’d probably start on another of Butcher’s books, but my grandson wants me to read this next.

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