Book Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

aeronaut's windlassTitle: The Aeronaut’s Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires, Book 1
Publisher: Roc
Paperback: 630 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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 Predator to 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…

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I’m a huge fan of Butcher’s Dresden Files series, so when I saw that he wrote a sort of sci-fi/high fantasy book, I needed to check it out right away. Luckily, Chicago Public Library is the best and has it available for OverDrive, so it was super easy to find.

This is a great set-up book, and as long as the sequel(s) deliver, I’ll consider it totally worth it. I love the foundation that Butcher lays for this world and these characters. If we get the chance to see them grow and see this world fleshed out with more information and complexities, then it’s totally worth it. However, if this is all that we get, then I’ll be disappointed. The characters a little bit too cliche for me, and the world wasn’t described as much as I would have liked it to be — again, if I get growth and description later, perfect; well done on the pacing. If not, it’ll be a bit of a problem.

With that said, it’s a fun book. Butcher offers lots of action, a touch of romance, and a wonderful new world to learn about and explore, which really is exactly my kind of book. It’s everything I look for with this kind of genre, and I was completely satisfied with it. While it took me a bit to get into it, I greatly enjoyed after the initial set-up and can’t wait to read more. I’m greatly looking forward to the next book in the series, but can’t recommend it in good conscience without first having that one out to read, just to see how all this pans out.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Soldiers of Halla by DJ MacHale

soldiers-of-hallaTitle: The Soldiers of Halla
Author: D.J. MacHale
Publisher: Aladdin
Series: Pendragon, Book 10
Hardcover: 608 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

It has all been leading to this. Every victory. Every loss. All the thrills and sadness; the hope and despair. Bobby Pendragon’s heart-pounding journey through time and space has brought him to this epic moment. He and his fellow Travelers must join forces for one last desperate battle against Saint Dane. At stake is not only the tenth and final territory, but all that ever was or will be. Everywhere.

This is the war for Halla.

Every question is answered. Every truth is revealed.

The final battle has begun.

My Review:

You know what makes a great book? Authors who aren’t afraid to get dirty; authors who don’t hold back on tragedy. This is especially true in adventure books — if your characters are frequently put in dangerous situations, bad things should happen. Yes, maybe they’re able to get out of those bad situations and rise above it, but it shouldn’t be easy for them. D.J. MacHale is one author who definitely doesn’t hold back and definitely doesn’t make it easy for his characters in the final battle.

I am very satisfied with the conclusion of this series. All the characters showed tremendous growth and the final battle was pretty awesome. MacHale did some careful planning with this series, because I noticed things that tied back to clues given in previous books, which was fun. This is the point I was waiting for throughout the entire series, and like I said, MacHale doesn’t hold back. The stakes are high and it gets dangerous for Bobby and his friends.

The only thing I didn’t like was the explanation of what makes them all Travelers and how the gates were formed. I know it’s a fantasy/science fiction novel, but it was just a little too far-fetched for me. I’m not going to go into detail due to spoilers, I’ll just say that I think there could be far better explanations to the one MacHale chose.

However, this was a satisfying ending. It got kind of shaky for me around book 6 (The Rivers of Zadaa), but I continued with it because I was invested in the characters by that point. Around book 8 (The Pilgrims of Rayne), I was feeling it again, and now I’m glad I stuck with it. Soldiers of Halla is a great book full of excitement, danger, adventure, friendship, and everything that I love about the Pendragon series. Honestly, I think it’s the best book of the series because the stakes are raised so high and the characters really have to struggle.

I recommend this entire series to lovers of young adult adventure/fantasy. They’re imaginative, exciting books that don’t disappoint.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.jpgTitle: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Anchor Books
Paperback: 333 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

My Review:

Again, I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Either I need to stop listening what my friends say about required reading, or I should raise my expectations of “classics.” (Or both.)

Into Thin Air is both thrilling and terrifying. Not that I was considering it, but I will now never take mountain climbing as a hobby — especially mountains where high-altitude sickness is a problem. Krakauer includes the history of Mount Everest along with the day-to-day events of his expedition, which added an interesting, enjoyable element to the novel. Not only was I reading a great story, I felt like I was learning a lot too.

Into Thin Air is a tragic story that is wonderfully told. The level of detail included in the descriptions is remarkable. I felt like I was climbing Everest with the author, going through the same psychological and physical torture. I also got to know those who climbed with him, sharing in their successes and failures. I want to note that there is a controversy as to whether the events happened like Krakauer said they happened; I am sure, with all that was going on at the time, that there are discrepancies with events, but I doubt that they are serious since he also interviewed multiple people who were there as well.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is at all interested in adventure or memoirs. If you’re squeamish, you should maybe stay away, since there are descriptions of some pretty awful sights and diseases (I got queasy more than a few times). However, I think that Into Thin Air is a novel most people will find a worthwhile read.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold

Title: Young Miles
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Publisher: Baen
Paperback: 827 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Washed out of the Barrayaran Military Academy for being overly fragile, Miles Vorkosigan’s natural–if unorthodox–leadership qualities quickly allow him to acquire a fleet of ships and 3,000 troops, all unswervingly loyal to him. In short order, he foils a plot against his father, returns to and graduates from the academy, solves a murder, thwarts an interstellar invasion, and rescues the Barrayaran Emperor.

Overall Rating: 5/5

This is easily one of my favorite books ever. Honestly, I didn’t think it would be. My college roommate hyped it up like crazy, so when I finally got to reading it, I was expecting disappointment because it didn’t seem like it was going to be as good as she promised.

But it was.

This particular edition consists of two novels and a short story that all revolve around a young man named Miles Vorkosigan who has a birth defect (not congenital, he frequently assures others) and because of that is fragile. His bones break under the smallest pressure and he’s less than five feet tall. The problem is that he was born on a militant planet to a very important family. When he washes out of the military academy, he has to find his own path to greatness — and find it he certainly does.

What impressed me the most about this book (and the rest of the series) is the level of characterization. Firstly, I love Miles. He is practically a cripple, but he doesn’t let that stop him, because while his body is weak, he is a genius. I appreciate that Bujold has created a character that doesn’t go into situations and use his strength or extreme fighting prowess to save the day; instead, he thinks about solutions and launches schemes to achieve his goals.

Secondly, all the characters are written in shades of grey; she shows the softer sides of rampaging killers and the darker sides of sheltered researchers. This is achieved through ingenious storytelling. With adventure, mystery, suspense, and plot twists that give you whiplash, I kept turning the pages and the characters kept evolving and growing. All this, combined with in-depth universe (not world) building and fascinating cultures, this book made me want more and more and more.

And don’t think it’s all just running around and doing brave deeds — though there is a lot of that — Bujold adds a lot of humor to these books and I found myself laughing aloud quite often.

I really can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It’s SO good! And I don’t think it’s just for science fiction fans; there is plenty of material for all kinds of readers to find something they like.