Last October, Phillip and I went to a talk by Jim Butcher, who was promoting his latest book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first book in a new series named The Cinder Spires. We ran into Snowie there. It was a huge turnout. The crowd filled the sanctuary of the University Temple United Methodist Church.
All I knew of Jim Butcher was that Phillip, Snowie, and enough people to fill a church, were fans. (Well, I did know that his books were generally in the science fiction/fantasy genre.) I’d seen Phillip reading several books in The Dresden Files series.
But I had never read any of Jim Butcher’s books.
Later, Phillip handed me his autographed copy of The Aeronaut’s Windlass. I tried reading it, but I just couldn’t get into it. It seemed to be a bunch of people, plus a talking cat, standing around talking about honor and duty. That’s fine, but I could never get a sense of what they were standing in, or where they were doing all this talking. The front of the book has some nice illustrations of a steampunk-ish airship named Predator, as well as some diagrams of what looked like an enclosed city, with labels like “Habble Morning” and “Spire Albion”. I guessed that the characters in the book were inside some sort of tower, or spire – except for the crew of the Predator. What was this spire? What did it look like? (I want my books to give me a mental image.)
It was too confusing for me. Around 50 pages into it, I tossed it onto my “to be read someday” pile.
At the start of January, I decided to give The Aeronaut’s Windlass another try. I’d started the 2016 Reading Challenge, but didn’t consider it for the Challenge. It would just be some side reading during the Challenge. Then I noticed that the book is 630 pages long, which fit into one of the categories. I started over from page 1. I was going to push my way through the book, and I was going to do it for the 2016 Reading Challenge.
Then, suddenly, somewhere around page 120, the action kicked in, an actual story developed, and the book got interesting.
Then, at the start of Chapter 19, on page 182, there was the first real description of Spire Albion. I could see the place, even if I didn’t quite know what it was. I started enjoying The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
Then, on page 197, the book finally told me that Spire Albion is ten thousand feet tall, and two miles across. It’s divided into 250 habbles (which are like cities). Habble Morning is where the story mostly takes place.
Spire Albion is only one of several spires.The spires were constructed by the legendary Builders, out of an extremely durable substance named spirestone. The secrets of this substance disappeared with the Builders.
Everything is powered by crystals. They’re what propels airships and keeps them aloft. Crystals provide heat and light to the habbles. They power weapons.
Most people – unless they are crew members on a merchant or military ship – never leave their spire. A lot of people have never left their own habble. They’ve never felt wind, and have never seen sunlight except filtered through a window. Hardly anyone has touched the ground.
Spire Albion has been attacked by Spire Aurora. A group of fresh recruits in The Royal Guard, including a talking cat, team up with the wounded crew of the Predator to escort a master etherealist and his apprentice on a dangerous mission to save Spire Albion.
Two and a half months after I re-started the book, I made it to page 630.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a pretty good book. It contains many interesting characters (especially Folly the apprentice and Rowl the cat), and many exciting action sequences. Those great moments seemed too few and far between, however. Plus, I kept wanting to know more about the spires. The Aeronaut’s Windlass did not turn me into a Jim Butcher fan.
- A book that’s more than 600 pages