Jim Butcher…you have my heart and soul. Fully. Completely.
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…
So this is a biased review. I’m just going to throw that out there. Jim Butcher is for real, my favorite author. I own all of his books. Imagine my excitement when I found out this new book series was STEAMPUNK. Holy Shit. My nerdy heart was elated. But the internet almost ruined it. There were a few folks bitching and moaning about how Jim Butcher was, essentially, a sellout. That he was pandering to a specific audience to make money. And then I remembered I was reading reviews on Goodreads. I love Goodreads. Truly. I love that it tracks my books I read and books I want to read, promotes giveaways (which I’ve one an audio book one time!) and recommendations. Literacy is important and it is what we as a nation need to promote. But all reviews on there, I feel, should be taken with a grain of salt. I mean, it is Facebook for book lovers. Which is cool. But some of these reviews are ridiculous in that these are people who think their opinions while change the world (says the girl with a book review blog). Personally, I don’t go off of reviews. I like to read the summary and make my own decision if I should read a book or not. When I reminded myself of all this stuff, I dived straight into Butcher’s new creation.
And like with all of his books, I feel in love. Hard.
The world is established yet mysterious. No characters are wasted. Rich colors and textures. Witty lines and lots of action. I mentioned it was steampunk right? Oh…it’s delicious.
The youngest of the characters, Gwen and Bridget, are perfect opposites of each other. Gwen is brash and doesn’t think things through completely. Bridget is more reserved, careful, and thoughtful. They weren’t vapid airheads nor were they so tough it was unbelievable. They are teenage girls of noble households, about sixteen years old, forced into a situation where they have to be brave. My favorite interaction between them was after a battle was fought, they are sitting next to each, disheveled and broken, and Gwen apologizes for not being a very good friend after Bridget cries on her shoulder. They share a real connection that is pretty true to life.
The male characters were great to, the leading man, Captain Grimm being just as devilishly wonderful like Butcher’s other character, Harry Dresden (who is my book boyfriend by the way. Oh Dresden…you are so broken…). Grimm is a swashbuckling hero, a typical architype in these steampunk romps. But, unlike other steampunk adventures (which usually end up to be bodice rippers), Grimm is not a condescending hero. Not some swarmy tough guy with a soft creamy nugget center. Grimm is a man of his word, a brilliant tactician. A man who leads by example and has the full respect and devotion of his airships crew.
But my favorite character has to be the Etherlists, especially Folly. The Etherilists, by the way, are magic type users. Or that’s the best way I can describe it. But being so close to this magic, they go mad. Folly’s interactions with the other characters in the book are so wonderfully fascinating, talking to a jar of crystals instead of the person speaking to her directly. I anticipate her being a very powerful and very important character.
There are other great and fun characters, from the foul-mouthed ship engineer Journeyman to an enemy Major and his warriorborn sergeant, from Benedict, Gwen’s warriorborn cousin to Rowl, a talking cat who is Bridget’s friend and protector.
Side note: can I mention how much I want Bridget and Benedict together? As much as I love Folly and her strangeness, there was something refreshing about a girl crushing on a boy. And then said boy returning those affections. It’s sweet.
Speaking of…I am so glad this is not a romance novel. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good bodice ripper…but why does it always have to in steampunk novels? I don’t mind a bit of romance like Bridget and Benedict’s, but I feel like most steampunk writers feel like they are required to have some kind of saucy sex scene. It doesn’t! That stuff feels forced, not like part of the actual story. Like someone has to be like “shit…I need to have these two characters boning.” Give me action and excitement! Give me intrigue and mystery! If the flow of the story has some kind of touching and loving, then so be it.
And that’s what I love about Jim Butcher’s writing: it flows so wonderfully. All the characters are carefully crafted and are put to their limits in crazy situations. And, it’s great fun.
If you’re needing a refreshing taste of steampunk, let me offer up to The Aeronaut’s Windlass. It will leave you turning page after page and chuckling and smiling and gasping. But then again, like I said…I might be a little biased. Jim Butcher is my favorite author after all.