Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Also by this author: Shadowed Souls
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Purchase at: Amazon
Jim Butcher, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels, conjures up a new series set in a fantastic world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors…
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…
If you have made it through the synopsis and have not figured this out yet, this is nothing like the Dresden Files. If you are looking for humorous dialogue with plenty tongue-in-cheek snarkiness coupled with pop-culture references, you will not find it in this book. This is also not your traditional steampunk fantasy; there is no real grittiness and no “punk.” What this story is about is a futuristic dystopian society that is on the brink of war and an unlikely band of hero’s (misfits) must save the day.
The planet’s surface is uninhabitable to humans and covered by dense mists/fog. On the surface of the planet there are dangerous creatures that are kept at bay by exterminators. Society has built spires in order to survive. Think of the spires as gigantic infrastructures that are separated into levels. The levels are independent of each other and have their own government rulers, resources, and military. Imagine that you have three countries stacked upon one another and that is essentially what I am talking about. In order to travel between the spires you would need Aeronauts.
Francis Madison Grimm was once an officer in the Fleet but was disgraced and forced out of the Fleet for cowardice. He is now the Captain of the Predator, which is an airship that he uses to transport items between spires. After taking on severe damage from a run in with a battle cruiser, the Predator has limped back to Spire Albion for repairs and replacement of their ethereal crystal. These crystals are grown and guarded by House Lancaster and are costly. Essentially think of them as power crystals and without them there would be no power for the Spire.
While docked for repairs Captain Grimm is searching to see if he can get replacement crystals at a reasonable price House of Lancaster comes under attack. Luckily Captain Grimm with the aid of his crew and some recruits from the academy they are able to thwart the attack that came upon the facility that housed the crystals.
This valor brings Grimm to the attention of the Spirearch, think emperor of Spire Albion, and Grimm is asked to complete a covert mission that includes the recruits. In return for his service the Spirearch will give Grimm the crystals he so desperately needs. All he needs to do is transport a master etheralist and his assistant to a location so that they can determine who the traitor is that helped plan the attack on Spire Albion. Oh yes, and let us not forget to include the Prince from the House of Silentpaws…a cat. Yes this story has cats that communicate in a language that is understandable by only a few people. The addition of the cats is interesting and actually adds the most amount of humor.
The world building idea was very creative but the details fell a bit short. For me it was like looking at a schematic and admiring what the world will be but not being able to see it fully realized. I loved the Aeronauts concept, a wink and a nod to buccaneers of old, and the aerial combat scenes involving these characters are amazing. There are many elements that add character and if further developed will be a great addition in novels to come. The pacing sometimes dragged from scene to scene and there was hardly a backstory to be found. My biggest gripe is of the characters themselves. I can see where he wanted to go with them but ultimately they were under developed, well……except for Rowl, the cat, he was nicely done. It was not a perfect series opener but the story has all the bones to develop into something great!