Even though I liked this book, it was really frustrating. It took me way too long to get into the story, not because it was boring, or poorly written, but because right from the beginning it felt like an introduction. This is obviously the first book in a series, and so it spends a lot of time setting up the world that the rest of the series will explore.
The characters are interesting and well defined, though maybe a little too unique. Each character seems to have his or her own niche to fill, and there are no overlaps among them. This makes each character very different and enjoyable, but also makes them very isolated. They have nothing in common, and it feels like the only reason they spend time together is due to their circumstances, not because they would actually enjoy each others company. The fact that every character seems to have a unique skill set also makes the group seem a little contrived.
The plot moves along quickly enough, and it’s a good story. The different character threads come together neatly and naturally. I did find Captain Grimm’s story to be the most difficult to read, often slogging through his chapters just so I could get back to the other characters. The most frustrating part about that, though, was that Grimm’s a good character. I hope that he’s a little less perfect in subsequent books, but I actually liked him a lot more than some of the other protagonists.
I’ve seen the book described as a steampunk fantasy, but I disagree with that description. The Aeronaut’s Windlass isn’t really steampunk. I’m not even really sure that it’s a fantasy novel either. There’s a type of magic involved, but the magic system seems so orderly that it feels a little more like sci-fi. The technology isn’t based on any real world science, but it does seem to be part of an in-world science. I could almost see the series taking the same direction that Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series went, where it appears to be fantasy, but the science behind the series is revealed later on.
It’s a good book, though not one of my favorites from Jim Butcher. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt for now. Butcher’s a good author, but all his series seem to take a book or two before they hit their stride. I’m assuming this series will be the same.