“The Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher
Why I Read It: Jim Butcher + Steampunk = Gimme. Now.
What It’s About: Humanity lives in huge, stone Spires that rise above the surface and the monster-filled mists that cover it. Society is ruled by aristocratic houses that develop scientific marvels and build fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. 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, Grimm is offered a proposition from the leader of Albion – to join a team of young, untried agents, an imperious cat and an utterly insane etherealist on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
Why I Recommend It: Jim Butcher is a wonderful storyteller. This is the first book of a series, and he has laid some excellent groundwork for this new world. He doesn’t explain everything all at once. You slowly learn about the history, landscape and politics of the Spires as Butcher builds to intense action scenes.
Rowl. If you took away the incredibly imagined world, the riveting battles and the promise of future intrigues, you would be left with several interesting and well-drawn characters, not the least of which is Rowl. He is a warrior and heir to Clan Silent Paws, and he’s a cat. He is ridiculously smug and demanding, but I don’t think anyone who has ever interacted with a cat would be surprised. When a cat is one of the heroes of the story…I mean, come on. You’ve got to be interested.