The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1)
by Jim Butcher.
This first book in the series introduces us to the world of the Spires, floating cities high in the air where humanity has lived for eons. This is Earth’s humanity, far into the future- something has happened on the surface to make ground life inhospitable. The Spire inhabitants engage in the usual political and mercantile pursuits, and fly around on very cool sounding airships. There’s a good amount of gadgetry mixed in with a good bit of magic. Spire Albion is where most of the story takes place, and we’re dropped in right as war with neighboring Spire Aurora heats up. There’s intrigue afoot, and hints of an ancient evil rising, and naturally our band of characters is vital to unraveling and stopping it. The worldbuilding is a bit on the sparse side, but not to the point of it interfering with the story. I expect that will get fleshed out in coming books.
It’s not quite YA, though. There are a couple of characters who are coming-of-age age: Gwen, the daughter of one of the most powerful families, and Bridget, a humble butcher’s daughter. The sections from their POV definitely fit the YA bill. But there’s also some fully adult characters who get their turn at POV, most notably Grimm, the airship captain arguably at the heart of story. Possibly my favorite sections were those from Rowl’s POV- who is, by the way, a cat. It seems like it’d be gimmicky, but somehow it’s not. And the whole feline warrior culture was entertaining. Butcher has clearly made an in-depth study of cats.
Overall, this was a really fun read, not particularly heavy going or light going. I’m not sure it has quite the storytelling pull that his other two series have- at least not yet. But it’s a solid opening book for what I’m sure will be a steampunk-y and epic adventure, and I fully plan on reading the next book to see where it goes.