Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jim Butcher Writes Steampunk: A Brief Review of The Aeronaut's Windlass

For Christmas my husband gave me Jim Butcher's latest book The Aeronaut's Windlass. If you read my 2015 Year in Review, you'll notice that I've read many of Butcher's books recently. His work is always excellent. The recommendations on the back of The Aeronaut's Windlass say similar things, mostly to the effect of "Jim Butcher wrote a new book!" My personal favorite was the blurb from author Patrick Rothfuss which said, "So Jim Butcher is writing futuristic dystopian steampunk? You had me at Jim Butcher, actually." But this book is not just another story written too quickly by a successful author to fulfill a quota for his publisher. The Aeronaut's Windlass is an engaging trip into a new world, and it stands up to the standards of Butcher's other books.

What We've Seen Before

Butcher always crafts complex characters that really satisfy. His worlds are
also well-developed and beautifully described. In this story, as in his others, we find his antagonists as engaging as his protagonists and quiet, confident power in leaders.

The plot is more similar to his Codex Alera series, following a group of young friends defending their home from strange creatures and a greater threat--not yet fully understood. Butcher artfully builds anticipation, then turns expectations on their heads or fulfills them to the reader's immense satisfaction.

What's New

"Steampunk" is the term for the flavor of this novel. Butcher uses the idea of a Victorian industrial world as a starting point. The class system, manners, careers, ailments, technologies, and creatures that would exist in such a world are fully realized or given in tantalizing hints.

The Aeronaut's Windlass takes a slightly milder pace than his other books. In The Dresden Files, I am always struck by how Butcher can make a situation increasingly worse before bringing his characters out again. However, when I say this story is milder, do not expect it to move slowly. The plot continues briskly, it just doesn't throw you right into life-threatening action the way some of his other stories do. Personally, I appreciated the change.

More female characters! Kitai was my favorite character in Codex Alera, but the female characters in The Dresden Files, while strong and well-developed, left something to be desired. The Aeronaut's Windlass has three female characters that are also main characters. They are each different and interesting. They are strong without being overbearing. I often find it difficult to identify with female leads, but not here. If you were wondering what I would like to have seen from Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this was it!

Conclusion

Still love Jim Butcher's work, and I really enjoyed this novel in particular. This definitely deserves a place on my shelf, and the shelf of any fantasy fan!

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