The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) – Jim Butcher

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Pages: 630
Release Date: September 29, 2015

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 Predatorto 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… 


The Aeronaut’s Windlass has been sitting on my TBR shelf for years. I was reluctant to read it because of the scarce information regarding the sequel. I decided to pick it up since I read somewhere that Butcher was expected to submit his first draft recently. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Aeronaut’s Windlass as much as I expected to. I found the characters to be bland, the story and magic system confusing, and the overall story was not engaging.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is told from multiple perspectives, but the main ones I’ll focus on for this review are Grimm, Gwen, and Bridget. 

Grimm is easily the most developed character as his backstory is quite robust, however his chapters were my least favorite because the mechanics of his ship/magic were confusing.

Gwen and Bridget are both young women entering the guard service for the first time for different reasons. Throughout the entirety of the novel, both remain bland and stiff characters. By the time they venture out of their comfort zones, it was too late. The novel was gearing up for the climax and I just wanted it to end.

Butcher does a horrible job of describing the setting and magic system. Despite having an intriguing setting and magic system, I felt lost and confused most of the time. It wasn’t until I read someone’s review about 100 pages into the novel that I found out humans didn’t live on the surface of the world for reasons. The mechanics of the ship and the etherealists are also poorly communicated, so by the midway point I found myself glossing over the action sequences. 

Since the characters were bland and a lot of the story elements were confusing, The Aeronaut’s Windlass failed to keep me engaged. There were moments I was genuinely interested, but I quickly became overwhelmed with the lack of clarity and direction of the story.

The final aspect of the novel I’d like to mention is the talking cats. In the beginning, I found them interesting but they quickly became annoying and childish. 

Overall, The Aeronaut’s Windlass was disappointing in its execution of an interesting idea with its bland characters, confusing magic system, and childish tone.


Have you read The Aeronaut’s Windlass? What did you think?

2 thoughts on “The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) – Jim Butcher

  1. I read this back when it was released and enjoyed it, but I’ve been wondering if he was ever going to write a sequel, now that it’s seven years later, lol. At least you won’t have to worry about waiting for it since you didn’t really like this😁

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