The Cinder Spires, #1: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (BOOK REVIEW)

The Spires are humanities last refuge against a cruel and inhospitable surface that is covered in a dense mist and filled with creatures made from the stuff of nightmares. The Spires themselves stretch miles into the open air, separate levels known as Habbles stacked one on top of the other.

In the same detail heavy, yet still seemingly simple fashion with which he brought us The Codex Alera, and The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher delivers us a whole new cast of characters, and plot lines that keep the pages turning in the Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first book in Butcher’s new series, The Cinder Spires.

Much like The Codex Alera, the full story is laid out before the reader from multiple view points in order to give the best view of the big picture. For those of you who have never read any of Butcher’s writing before, it is similar to how George R. R. Martin wrote Game of Thrones.

Many Spires dot the face of the world – never referenced as earth but the insinuation is there – and each acts independently of each other much like countries do here. Each Spire is ruled by the aristocratic houses that have resided there for centuries, overseen by a patriarchal head ruling over everything. Our story is set in Spire Albion, and the Albion’s quickly find themselves at war with a rival Spire, it does not take long for blood to be shed.

The story progresses quickly. Action packs the pages from the beginning of the prologue when we are introduced to Gwendolyn Margaret Elizabeth Lancaster, the strong female lead with the hot temper, and short fuse. Much in line with The Dresden Files’ Karen Murphy, The Codex Alera’s Kitai, and to draw further comparisons to Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark, she refuses to back down  and God help anyone or anything that gets in her way. She remains an integral part of the team of protagonists.

Gwen’s cousin Benedict is also along for the ride. He is the groups engine of destruction. Born of high blood, he is a warrior-borne. A type of human subspecies that is often stigmatized, yet feared by the rest of the population. The details of his birth have gifted him with super human strength, agility, and aggression – and he puts all of those skills to use with deadly precision.

From the team of heroes, my personal favorite is Captain Grimm, a misunderstood Albion loyalist who was drummed out of the air fleet due to “perceived” cowardliness in battle. This past situation is often referenced, but Butcher uses his talent for not-so-subtle foreshadowing to draw the reader in – even though it can be mildly infuriating as a reader starving for more, but it is clear that Grimm is no coward. What is known is that he is a man built on a bedrock of integrity, and loyalty. The men under his command don’t just respect him, they love him, and would die for him if that is what it took to get the job done.

When I call him a captain, he does have ship, much in the style of 15th and 16th century pirates, with a couple exceptions. The most glaring being, the ship powers through the skies, held aloft in the air by special crystals that give all ships that ability, as opposed to cruising through the rough waters of the seas and oceans.

Everything I love about the worlds, and characters that Butcher creates is present is all of the right places. The intrigue and espionage, the control of powers beyond the scope of the human mind, the underdogs who surprise and overcome every obstacle they face – even the not-so-standard love story blossoming across the pages. As is with any series of the fantasy/science-fiction genre, the world is coming apart at the seems and it is up to a small group of individuals to make sure it doesn’t happen.

I was wary when I first opened The Aeronaut’s Windlass, that is why it took me a few months to get onto actually reading it. It wasn’t that I was worried that it would be bad, but rather because I had grown so fond of the characters from Butcher’s other books I was worried that the change would make me see them differently. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really love my favorite books. I was not disappointed. The book lived up to every expectation I had of it and even added some.

The only thing that I didn’t really understand was the story addition of sentient cats who reside within their own culture beside humans. I see what Butcher was trying to do in building a race of characters comparable to what he did with the Canim in Alera, it just felt forced at times and were the only times where I could drag my mind from the pages to remember reality.

Overall, it was worth every penny of the $35.95 CDN I spent on it at Indigo and I highly recommend The Aeronaut’s Windlass to any already established Butcher fans, or anyone else for that matter.

No mention of the next book has been made to date. As readers we can only speculate on where the story is going to take us next, and the wait is killing me.

Alex Scantlebury is a founding partner and senior content creator for Initial Public Relations. Previously he was the senior writer for EBM Professional Writing Services and has also written for, Career Options Magainze and F-OFF. He is happily married to his wife Alicia and they are currently expecting their fourth daughter. Follow him on Twitter at @IPRwriter.

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