The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher

I suppose I should start out saying that I may have a bias when reviewing this book, Jim Butcher has been one of my favorite authors for over a decade.  I started reading The Aeronaut's Windlass with incredible levels of excitement and anticipation, even if it took me until now to read it (and that kids, is the downside of becoming a book reviewer, books you want to read but don't have a deadline for become secondary to books you want to read that do have a deadline).

I was not let down.

Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

As much as I love steampunk and the whole retro-futurism, I always remain wary of it as a plot setting.  So often the result is a book that seems to be screaming "LOOK AT HOW STEAMPUNK I AM!!!!" while bashing me over the head with all the "steampunk" details.  The Aeronaut's Windlass did not fall into that trap, with it's genre-classifying elements actual parts of the plot and story, not gratuitous extras.  Actually, engines are mentioned but I cannot for the life of me remember if a single one is a steam-engine.

It's perhaps a bit of a misconception that the book is about Captain Grimm.  He stands as one of a prodigious core cast in this adventure.  Gwen, Brigit, Benedict, and most certainly Rowl (after all, he is cat) all deserve equal billing at the very least.  I like that we also get chapters dedicated to the antagonists actions as well, getting more than just interaction and reaction.

The Aeronaut's Windlass combines sci-fi and fantasy in a air-ship filled rollicking adventure that brings to mind a mash-up of Shakespeare and The Princess Bride.  We have heroics, tempers, swashbuckling, dastardly villains, battles of wits, revenge, and maybe a little true love on the side.  This tome drops you into the story from page one and seems much shorter than its 750 pages.  I'm not sure where Butcher is taking this story next, but I will be sorely disappointed if it does not include Rowl.

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Roc (Penguin RandomHouse) in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.