(Long absence again! Can’t promise anything. But – here’s a post for now!)
So I wasn’t going read Jim Butcher’s latest, because it’s steampunk and steampunk really isn’t my thing. But my mom bought it for me – she knows I love Butcher’s work and very kindly always preorders his stuff off Amazon for me – and I’m so glad she did. I wouldn’t have given it a chance otherwise and it’s certainly worth reading!
The Aeronaut’s Windlass takes place in an alternate world, where people live on giant, man-made mountains – Spires-, forever under ceilings that cover all the living space. They travel from place to place via crystal-powered ships (and wear goggles to protect them from the sun.) The crystals are powered via ether, a magical presence that flows through the world – very much like the Force. The basic premise is that one of the Spires, which struggles economically, has decided that conquering one of the more prosperous Spires (where the heroes reside) is their path to economic success.
Overall, it’s a really fun and light read. Pure escapism – I was totally absorbed in the book and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Like most of Butcher’s work, it’s fast-paced with lots of action and a multifaceted plot. There’s strong hints of plot points that I’m wildly curious about – Butcher introduces a lot and gives a strong base for further books and intrigue – but I know that we can depend on him to follow through and incorporate everything in future books. I’m super excited about the next book in the series!
In the Dresden Files, Butcher has a definite tendency towards info-dumping, but here it’s actually handled quite well – he reveals things very naturally and the reader has the enjoyable job of puzzling together how the world works. There are about ten different viewpoints he switches between – maybe more? Some of them are much more heavily emphasized than others, but though Butcher does it well, if multiple viewpoints are not your thing, this is not your book. (It’s in third person, not first, if that’s influential.)
My biggest critique is that it’s so fast paced and switches between so many viewpoints that I don’t feel the characters were developed as much as I would’ve liked. The hardcover was probably 700 pages, so there was a lot of room for worldbuilding and plot development – and the multiple characters’ viewpoints all wound together seamlessly to provide a cohesive plot. But because there were so many characters, and because Butcher is aiming to develop complex characters with room for growth, there wasn’t quite enough room for character development at the level that I would’ve liked.
That being said, I did enjoy the characters very much! There’s a fair number of female characters, now that I think about it, and they all have important roles to play. Most importantly, all of the characters whose viewpoint we used were complex and interesting, if not explored in depth. I want to know their backstory, or see how they develop, or both! Though a few of the secondary characters tend towards the archetypes – the villains, for instance, are chilling but not terribly original – it’s forgivable in the context of the main characters.
Most of the main characters are late teens, early twenties. They have a wide variety of strengths and interests and I like that they have lots of room for growth without it actually being a coming-of-age story – the focus is how all the characters weave together, not the growth of one particular character. Also, in contrast to his previous two series, there is no “Chosen One” (either obvious or implied) in the story and very little room for one to develop. I’m a bit worn out on the chosen character stories, so it’s a nice relief!
My favorite character by far is Captain Grimm, one of the main-main characters. He’s captain of the Predator, a mysteriously overpowered ship that’s the fastest in the sky. He’s a good man – not a conflicted good man, but someone who does the right thing because of conviction – but isn’t boring or particularly stereotypical. He longs for freedom, but is not willing to pay any price for it. Butcher alludes to a mysterious, semi-tragic backstory that I presume will be revealed in the next book or two.
Overall, if you’re into sci-fi/fantasty/steampunk escapism, good world-building, and fast-paced action-packed stories, this is definitely a book I would recommend! If you’re looking for a deep, introspective read, an in-depth character study, or a totally new take on the sci-fi/steampunk world, this, sadly, probably isn’t your read.