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Matthew Hernandez
Matthew Hernandez

How The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass Blends Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Adventure

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass - A Steampunk Fantasy Adventure by Jim Butcher

Steampunk fantasy is a subgenre of speculative fiction that combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure. It typically features steam-powered technology, alternative history, Victorian aesthetics, airships, clockwork, and magic. Steampunk fantasy appeals to many readers because it offers a rich and imaginative world-building, a blend of genres and styles, a sense of wonder and adventure, and a contrast between progress and tradition.

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass

Jim Butcher is a bestselling American author who is best known for his urban fantasy series The Dresden Files, which follows Harry Dresden, a wizard detective who solves supernatural cases in modern-day Chicago. He is also the author of the epic fantasy series Codex Alera, which is inspired by Roman history and Pokemon. His latest series is The Cinder Spires, which he describes as "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock Holmes meets Hornblower".

The Cinder Spires is a steampunk fantasy series that takes place on a world where humans live in massive cylindrical towers called spires that rise above an inhospitable surface. The spires are powered by crystals that can also be used for magic, weapons, and airships. The spires are constantly at war with each other over resources, trade, and territory. The first book in the series, The Aeronaut's Windlass, introduces a group of heroes who must stop an invasion by a rival spire while also uncovering an ancient threat that could destroy their world.


The setting of The Cinder Spires is one of its most distinctive features. The spires are huge structures that house millions of people in different levels called habitats. Each spire has its own culture, history, politics, economy, and military. The spires are named after colors or metals, such as Spire Albion, Spire Aurora, Spire Olympia, Spire Ethereal, etc.

The crystals are the source of power for the spires. They can be grown in vats or mined from the surface. They can also be shaped into different forms and functions. Some crystals can lift objects or airships, some can store or transmit energy or information, some can create shields or weapons, some can manipulate ethereal forces or elements. Crystals can also be used by etherealists, who are people who can sense and manipulate ethereal energy with their minds.

The surface of the world is a dangerous place full of monsters and mist. The mist is a thick fog that covers most of the surface and obscures vision and communication. The mist also affects the crystals, making them unstable or useless. The monsters are creatures that have adapted to the harsh environment and prey on anything that ventures into the surface. Some of the monsters include silkweavers, giant spiders that can spin webs of steel; gauntlets, armored beasts that can crush anything in their path; and mistsharks, flying predators that can sense vibrations in the mist.

The skies are the main arena for trade and war between the spires. Airships are the main mode of transportation and combat. Airships are powered by lift crystals and propelled by sails or engines. Airships can vary in size, shape, design, and function. Some airships are merchant vessels, some are military ships, some are privateers or pirates. Airships can also be equipped with different weapons, such as cannons, rockets, grapnels, or boarding parties.

The main factions in The Aeronaut's Windlass are Spire Albion and Spire Aurora. Spire Albion is a constitutional monarchy that values freedom, democracy, and innovation. Spire Albion is led by the Spirearch, who is elected by the nobility and advised by a council of representatives from different habitats. Spire Albion has a strong navy and a loyal population. Spire Aurora is an imperial dictatorship that values order, hierarchy, and tradition. Spire Aurora is ruled by the High Houses, who are descended from ancient conquerors and have absolute power over their subjects. Spire Aurora has a large army and a vast territory.


The characters of The Aeronaut's Windlass are diverse and dynamic. They have different backgrounds, personalities, skills, and goals. They also have complex relationships and conflicts with each other.

The main protagonists are:

  • Captain Francis Grimm: A former captain of the Albion Fleet who was dishonorably discharged for cowardice. He now commands the Predator, a privateer ship that raids Auroran vessels. He is loyal to Spire Albion and has a strong sense of honor and duty.

  • Gwendolyn Lancaster: The heiress of House Lancaster, one of the most powerful and influential families in Spire Albion. She is a proud, stubborn, and brave young woman who wants to prove herself as a warrior and a leader.

  • Bridget Tagwynn: The daughter of House Tagwynn, a once-noble family that has fallen into poverty and obscurity. She is a kind, gentle, and intelligent young woman who loves animals and books.

  • Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster: The cousin of Gwendolyn and a warriorborn. He is a handsome, charming, and skilled fighter who has enhanced strength, speed, reflexes, and senses due to his cat-like features.

  • Ferus: A master etherealist who is eccentric, mysterious, and powerful. He can manipulate ethereal forces with his mind, but he also suffers from various quirks and limitations.

  • Folly: The apprentice of Ferus who is shy, quiet, and curious. She can also use ethereal magic, but she prefers to communicate with her crystals rather than people.

  • Rowl: A cat prince of the Silent Paws tribe who lives in Habble Morning of Spire Albion. He is Bridget's best friend and protector. He is proud, arrogant, and cunning. He can speak with humans through a translation device.

The main antagonists are:

  • Lord Reginald Astor: The leader of House Astor, one of the High Houses of Spire Aurora. He is a ruthless, ambitious, and cunning man who wants to conquer Spire Albion and become the supreme ruler of all spires.

  • Commander Cavendish: The commander of the Auroran Marines who leads the invasion of Spire Albion. He is a loyal, brave, and skilled soldier who follows Lord Astor's orders without question.

  • Madame Cavendish: The wife of Commander Cavendish and a spy master for Spire Aurora. She is a beautiful, seductive, and dangerous woman who infiltrates Spire Albion's society and manipulates people to her advantage.

  • The Enemy: An ancient and mysterious force that has been dormant for thousands of years. It has awakened and started to stir in the depths of the surface. It has unknown motives and abilities, but it seems to be hostile to all life.

The supporting characters include:

  • Spirearch Addison Orson Magnus Jeremiah Albion: The ruler of Spire Albion who recruits the protagonists for a vital mission. He is an old, wise, and benevolent man who cares for his people and his spire.

  • Master Ferrus: The head of the Albion Fleet's Engineering Corps and a friend of Captain Grimm. He is a brilliant, eccentric, and grumpy engineer who can fix and improve any airship or device.

  • Calliope Ransom: The captain of the Auroran privateer ship Itasca and a former lover of Captain Grimm. She is a cunning, ruthless, and charismatic woman who has a personal vendetta against Grimm.

  • Gwendolyn's parents: Lord and Lady Lancaster, the heads of House Lancaster and the Lancaster Vattery. They are wealthy, powerful, and influential nobles who have high expectations for their daughter.

  • Bridget's father: Franklin Tagwynn, the head of House Tagwynn and the Tagwynn Vattery. He is a kind, gentle, and honorable man who loves his daughter and his animals.

  • Chief Maul: The leader of the Silent Paws tribe of cats who live in Habble Morning. He is Rowl's father and a wise, strong, and respected cat.

  • Little Mouse: A female cat of the Silent Paws tribe who is Rowl's betrothed. She is a sweet, loyal, and brave cat who admires Rowl.


The plot of The Aeronaut's Windlass is fast-paced, action-packed, and suspenseful. It follows the protagonists as they try to stop the Auroran invasion of Spire Albion while also dealing with their own personal issues and secrets.

The plot can be summarized as follows:

  • The Predator is ambushed by Auroran ships and suffers severe damage to its lift crystal. Captain Grimm manages to escape and land in Habble Landing, where he meets Master Ferrus who offers to help him repair his ship.

  • Gwen, Bridget, Benedict, and Rowl are training for the Spirearch's Guard in Habble Morning when they hear an explosion. They rush to the scene and find that an Auroran squad has infiltrated the spire and attacked the Lancaster Vattery. They fight off the invaders and rescue Gwen's parents.

  • The Spirearch summons the four trainees to his palace and assigns them a secret mission: to escort Ferus and Folly to Habble Landing and investigate a mysterious device that may be connected to the Auroran attack. He also hires Captain Grimm to transport them on his ship.

  • The group boards the Predator and sets off for Habble Landing. Along the way, they encounter more Auroran ships and engage in a fierce battle. They manage to reach their destination with the help of Calliope Ransom, who reveals herself as an Auroran agent and taunts Grimm.

  • The group meets with Master Ferrus, who shows them the device: a portal that can transport people between spires. They realize that the Aurorans have been using it to infiltrate Spire Albion and plan a massive invasion.

  • The group decides to use the portal to enter Spire Aurora and sabotage their war efforts. They disguise themselves as Aurorans and infiltrate their spire. They encounter various dangers and enemies, such as Madame Cavendish, Commander Cavendish, Lord Astor, silkweavers, gauntlets, etc.

  • The group manages to destroy several Auroran airships, weapons, factories, and vatteries. They also discover that Lord Astor has allied himself with the Enemy, an ancient force that lives in the surface and wants to wipe out all life in the spires.

  • The group escapes from Spire Aurora and returns to Spire Albion through the portal. They report their findings to the Spirearch, who declares war on Spire Aurora and mobilizes his forces. He also rewards the group for their bravery and service.

  • The group joins the Albion Fleet in defending Spire Albion from the Auroran invasion. They face a huge armada of Auroran ships led by Lord Astor himself. They also face the Enemy, who unleashes its monstrous creatures from the surface.

  • The group fights valiantly against overwhelming odds. They manage to destroy many Auroran ships and monsters, but they also suffer losses and injuries. They finally confront Lord Astor on his flagship, where he reveals his plan to use a powerful crystal weapon to destroy Spire Albion and unleash the Enemy on the world.

  • The group manages to stop Lord Astor and his weapon, but not without a cost. They also manage to drive away the Enemy, but not without a warning. They celebrate their victory, but also mourn their losses. They look forward to the future, but also prepare for the next challenge.


The Aeronaut's Windlass is a thrilling and entertaining steampunk fantasy novel that introduces a fascinating world and a compelling story. It has many strengths, such as:

  • The world-building: The spires, the crystals, the airships, the etherealists, and the cats are all well-developed and original concepts that create a rich and immersive setting.

  • The characters: The protagonists are likable, relatable, and complex. They have distinct personalities, backgrounds, motivations, and arcs. They also have interesting relationships and interactions with each other and with the supporting characters.

  • The plot: The plot is fast-paced, action-packed, and suspenseful. It has a good balance of humor, drama, romance, mystery, and adventure. It also has twists and turns that keep the reader engaged and surprised.

  • The themes: The themes are relevant and meaningful. They explore topics such as loyalty, honor, courage, friendship, family, duty, freedom, war, peace, etc.

The Aeronaut's Windlass also has some weaknesses, such as:

  • The length: The novel is over 600 pages long and has many subplots and details that may be overwhelming or confusing for some readers.

  • The exposition: The novel has a lot of exposition and infodumps that may slow down the pace or interrupt the flow of the story.

  • The clichés: The novel has some clichés and tropes that may be predictable or familiar for some readers. For example, the evil empire, the ancient enemy, the chosen one, etc.

The Aeronaut's Windlass is a great steampunk fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Jim Butcher and other authors in the genre. It is also a good introduction to the genre for new readers who want to explore a different and exciting world. It is a promising start to The Cinder Spires series that leaves the reader wanting more.


Here are some frequently asked questions about The Aeronaut's Windlass:

  • Q: When will the next book in The Cinder Spires series be released?

  • A: The next book in The Cinder Spires series is called The Olympian Affair. It is expected to be released in 2023.

  • Q: How many books are planned for The Cinder Spires series?

  • A: Jim Butcher has said that he plans to write nine books for The Cinder Spires series.

  • Q: How does The Cinder Spires series compare to Jim Butcher's other series?

  • A: The Cinder Spires series is different from Jim Butcher's other series in terms of genre, setting, style, and tone. It is more of a steampunk fantasy series than an urban fantasy or an epic fantasy series. It has a more Victorian and nautical feel than a modern or medieval feel. It has more humor and whimsy than grittiness and darkness.

  • Q: What are some other books or authors that are similar to The Cinder Spires series?

  • A: Some other books or authors that are similar to The Cinder Spires series are:

  • The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

  • The Tales of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding

  • The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

  • The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

  • The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

  • Q: Where can I find more information about The Cinder Spires series?

  • A: You can find more information about The Cinder Spires series on Jim Butcher's official website (, on Goodreads (, or on Wikipedia (



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