Jim Butcher is, to many, the author who defines the world of Urban Fantasy novels. His Butcher Files series features Harry Dresden, a private investigator in Chicago who also happens to be an incredibly powerful wizard. One of the things I love most about this series is Butcher’s ability to weave the magical world of wizards, vampires, ghosts, and more within the very real setting of modern-day Chicago. I love imagining all of the magic happening just out of sight while the rest of us are living our daily lives.
Butcher’s new Steampunk series, Cinder Spires, is a vast departure from the world we know, but does not sacrifice Butcher’s mastery of characters or plot in order to create this new world where the earth’s surface has been made uninhabitable and people live above the clouds in vast cities built within tall stone spires. In this fanciful place, travel is done by airship (literally ships that fly), and everything from the ships to teapots to weapons are powered by magical crystals. With so much to explain about how things work, the first installment of the series, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, has a fairly long, slow introduction before the action picks up. Luckily, once the story really gets started (about 200 pages in), it is action-packed until the very end.
When Spire Albion is unexpectedly attacked by a rival spire, the Spirearch (similar to a British monarch) sends a rag-tag group off to search for spies within his armies. Leading the group is Privateer Francis Grimm, a disgraced military man with a heart of gold. Joining him on his ship are members of the Spirearch’s personal guard, a couple of strange yet powerful etherealists (this world’s wizards), and a talking cat. Along the way, this group uncovers a conspiracy so deep it goes all the way down to the earth’s toxic and frightening surface. After delving so deep into this world, it will be hard to leave it behind until the next installment in the series comes out (hopefully soon!).
While Butcher has long been the King of Urban Fantasy, he has proven with The Aeronaut’s Windlass that he is not a one-genre pony. This is a fantastic book for fans of fantasy of any kind as well as anyone who enjoys a great adventure story.
- Portia Kapraun