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…
This was far and away the most poorly written Steampunk novel I’ve read to date (if you can even really call it Steampunk…), but at least it was moderately entertaining.
To start with, the Steampunk genre requires the use of STEAM technology. The Aernaut’s Windlass operates primarily using crystal energy, so it’s really just a regular old fantasy novel. But Jim Butcher was obviously enamored with the look of Steampunk (or at least enamored with the potential sales market of Steampunk), and so contrived a million reasons why people might need ____. “Gauntlets always look cool, what if they were somehow the primary weaponry instead of guns?!” And so on.
Another large problem, over 600 pages later I still don’t know what a “Windlass” is. This book had way too much unexplained jargon in it, which could have been cool I guess, but the descriptions and exposition weren’t vivid enough for me to figure it out. In general I think fantasy is more believable when the author doesn’t go about explaining what everything is, and Butcher definitely just jumped in. But he spent too much time focusing on stuff, and ignored almost any descriptions that would give me any idea what was going on.
Besides that, the book was just bad. The characters were one-dimensional, and the relationships they built completely emotionless. The dialogue was terrible, worse than Twilight. The pacing was completely off, especially toward the end as Butcher tried to build up toward the climax for a good 200 pages. It didn’t work. The story was too meandering, adding twist after twist that didn’t build suspense so much as became predictable and cliche. The villains lacked motivation, a transparent attempt to get readers to buy the next book and find out what their motivation is. And the fight sequences were so long as to become tiresome. Think Superman “Man of Steel”.