The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I wish Goodreads had "half-star" ratings. I gave this book two stars because I had to; what I really wanted to give was a 1.5, somewhere in between "okay" and "didn't like." Because, for me, the former was pretty well dwarfed by the latter.
My main reaction, though, was disappointment, because Jim Butcher can write much better books than this. Jim Butcher has written better books than this, in the form of the entire Harry Dresden series.
I own all of the Harry Dresden books, and though I'm the first to admit they're light floofy entertainment, they're damn good light floofy entertainment. This is due to the fine worldbuilding and characters, the intricate (sometimes overly so) plotting, and Harry's unforgettable voice. At fifteen books in, the series is getting more than a little top-heavy, but Harry's voice and characterization generally carries the day.
Unfortunately, the Dresden Files has everything (except for the worldbuilding) the Cinder Spires lacks. To be frank, Harry Dresden, for all his faults, angst and not infrequent sexism, has more life and personality than all the dullards in this book put together.
It's sad, because with some halfway decent characters, this book could have been fantastic. The worldbuilding is excellent, on par with the mythos of the Dresden Files, and the main reason I kept reading to the end (since I uttered the Eight Deadly Words--"I Don't Care About Any of These People!"--pretty early on). I wanted to know more about the Cinder Spires--who were the Builders? How were the Spires built, and what keeps them aloft? Why is the planet's surface so deadly? The technology of the airships was fascinating, and the fight scenes crackled with excitement. But dammit, it seemed like every time Butcher would take flight (pardon the pun) with an airship battle, one of the clunky interchangeable characters would come along and drag it down once again. These are not real people, but obvious pawns on the author's chessboard, and they deserved better.
(I mean, for crying out loud, this world has thirty-pound intelligent talking cats! And Butcher still can't give them a distinctive feline culture, but makes them come across as arrogant, egotistical Brits in furry suits!)
This book ends on such a cliffhanger, with so many threads in the air, that I'm sure the author will grant us several more 600-page doorstops. Unfortunately, I will not be reading them.
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