I was conflicted when it came time to review this book. I’ve been a fan of Jim Butcher’s writing for awhile, so I was fairly excited to see that not only was he coming out with a new novel, but it was a departure from his Dresden Files series. I’m not terribly familiar with the Steampunk genre, so this was going to be something very new for me and I was excited to get my hands on it.
He doesn’t waste any time getting you immersed into the story. There really is no preamble and no buildup. There is no backstory to any of the characters or even the world that we are inhabiting. For a first in a series book, this is a little surprising and I think that it was one of the reasons I personally couldn’t give a higher rating. You’re left foundering a bit to try and understand the story and understand who the characters are and what drives them. You’re left to infer much and try to draw your own conclusions. What is a warriorborn? What are the Spires? Why is the Surface such a horrible place? Why are Spire Albion and Spire Aurora fighting? Who is the Enemy? And those were just the really important ones.
The plot suffers a bit too. Why is the leader of Albion sending an untested group of children on a secret mission? And really, what is the mission? It’s never truly explained even after Captain Grimm comes back. And the mission is never even explained to those involved. Everyone was on a need to know basis truly to the detriment of themselves and their own safety. Without knowing what the true danger was, they walked blindly from one disaster to another. I can understand why Captain Grimm would undertake the mission, he was being bribed. After the near destruction of his airship, Predator, he was offered the necessary repairs to make his airship whole again. With no strings attached. Who wouldn’t play babysitter to a bunch of kids being sent on a super secret mission?
The characters didn’t suffer, thankfully. Even with the lack of backstory, each character had their own voice and you could easily get a picture of each one of them and this is what truly led the story. The characters and their interactions. I think my favorite character will have to be Rowl, but I’m also a fan of cats and his snarky attitude fit perfectly with how I think my cats would talk to me if I could understand them like his Littlemouse can. While a lot of readers didn’t’ really care for the cats, I thought that they added a bit of fun to the book.
The battle scenes were well done, very intense and even though you were pretty sure that the main characters were going to make it out of this book alive, you were never entirely sure. There are two battles that still stand out in my mind and they weren’t even the climatic airship battles at the end of the book. They involved spider-like monsters and cats saving the day. Who doesn’t like it when the cat saves the day? It was a lot of fun and the action was very fast paced and kept you on the edge of your seat.
The story flowed very well and very quickly. This is probably one of the longest books that I’ve read by Jim Butcher and he managed to make it feel like a much shorter book. If you’re in the mood for some fun battle scenes, talking cats and a world where magic and steam-powered airships rule the skies, pick this one up. This will not be a book for everyone and for anyone who needs to have more backstory and more explanation as to the WHY factor, you may want to steer clear. I’ll be giving the next book in the series a chance and I hope that he’ll build in more of the WHY factor. The Aeronaut’s Windlass didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was still a good book overall.