Checking In

November’s been such a hectic month – whatever happened to winding down for the year?  I admit that despite my best intentions, I’ve spent a good amount of time on the internet hitting that One-Click button over the past couple of days.  I’m not sure what’s happened (I suspect some price-matching algorithm going haywire), but my inbox has been flooded with price drop emails* over the weekend.  I’ve been fairly good, but the 50% rebate at AllRomanceEbooks (today only (30 Nov)!) may be the tipping point.  Who needs Christmas presents anyway, right?

I wanted to post about a couple of my recent reads before I completely forgot what I’ve been reading over November – because despite the busy-ness that was November, I’ve been getting through quite a few books.

24876258Most recently, Jim Butcher‘s foray into “steampunk” fantasy, THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS.  I borrowed this from the library as his more recent Dresden Files books (his very long-running UF series) have been just okay for me, and his other fantasy series felt very much like fantasy-by-numbers (entertaining fantasy-by-numbers, to be fair, but still, nothing groundbreaking).

But you know what?  I actually ended up enjoying this book a whole lot.  And I liked it precisely of what it wasn’t.

1) It wasn’t Harry Dresden in a steampunk setting, and by that, I mean the story didn’t feature a snarky dude with tendencies towards heroism, and transplanted into a fantasy setting.  (Also interestingly, this appears to be a negative in some of the reviews I’ve read.)

2) It wasn’t steampunk (hence the inverted commas above). Although this was branded as steampunk on Butcher’s website, the most steampunk-ish angle was probably the goggles the aeronauts wore, oh, and some passing references to steam engines?  The energy sources for his airships appeared to be magic crystals of the hand-wavey type, which kind of contradicts the whole basis for steampunk setting (not that I’m an expert or anything).

And this is a good thing how, you ask?  Because despite my best intentions (I feel like I should like steampunk, you know?), I’ve never really gotten steampunk as a genre (I adore Meljean Brooks’ IRON SEA series, but I suspect that’s more a testimony to her world-building skills than anything else), and I was more than fine with a fast-moving military/adventure fantasy with an intriguing setting and some surprisingly strong female POVs.

THE AERONAUT’S WINDLASS isn’t a perfect read – there are quite a few POVs to get to grips with, especially at the start, and it doesn’t exactly challenge any fantasy conventions, but it’s lots of fun and I’m looking forward to the next book.

To wrap up, a couple more November reads I liked:

  • Josh Lanyon‘s JEFFERSON BLYTHE, ESQUIRE (M/M NA): I usually enjoy Lanyon’s books, and this was no exception – she has a way of hitting the right buttons for me.  This was branded as a caper-style story, and was very definitely one.  However, it did have the (trademark Lanyon) abrupt ending, and I’d liked to have a bit more (also, I kept on wondering how Jefferson could afford the many last-minute jaunts between London and the continent – train travel isn’t exactly cheap…).
  • Zen Cho‘s SPIRITS ABROAD (fantasy collection): I didn’t love her debut novel SORCEROR TO THE CROWN as much as I thought I would (I appreciated how she made the story feel current, for instance, we had everyday microaggressions translated in a fantasy Regency context, and also how Britain’s colonial history was woven into the story, but overall, never quite connected with the characters).  But I thought the short story length in this collection worked really well across the board, and I loved how fantastical and traditional elements were all transposed into a modern setting.



*Not a sponsored nor affiliate link – eReaderIQ has just saved me so much money over the past couple of years.  They earn a % of any purchases you make by clicking on their links, though you could probably remove/change the affiliate tags if you really really wanted to.


12 thoughts on “Checking In

  1. I didn’t know Jim Butcher was working on another series! I also never got into the Dresden Files even though the few that I have read were pretty good. And haha, I don’t necessarily understand steampunk, either. There aren’t very many that come to mind that I actually enjoyed so much that I’d re-read. In fact, I sometimes find the steampunk elements a bit gimmicky…

    • Yeah, there were quite a few books that were very much just jumping on the steampunk bandwagon when it became a bit of a trend a couple of years ago(?).

      I liked Meljean Brook’s series because the world-building was really well-thought through – it wasn’t just chucking in some steam engines and a couple of airships (though it had that!) and calling it steampunk. Also, she actually made me enjoy a book that had zombies in it…

  2. I liked The Aeronaut’s Windlass quite a bit, too, Li. I was also glad it didn’t feel like Harry Dresden in another setting. And I didn’t love Sorcerer to the Crown either so am glad to hear you liked the short stories. I’ll have to take a look at those.

    • I read pretty much universal raves about SORCERER so maybe my expectations were too high? Her short story collection had much more “bite”, I thought.

      I noticed you liked the Jim Butcher too! I skimmed through your review as I hadn’t read it yet, but your review did make me bounce it to the top of my to-read pile 🙂

  3. Hey Li 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windglass!! Jim Butcher finally overcame his first book syndrome. Actually, I felt this one felt very much like a fantasy-by-number… or at least, very similar to the Codex Alera series – you’ve read them right?

    • LOL @ the first book comment! So true.

      The thing with the Codex Alera books for me was everything turned out just as expected – there were no surprises. Tavi’s character arc was signposted so far in advance, you could tell the good guys and villains apart so easily etc. I agree there were predictable elements in TAW, but I thought it was stronger than the Codex books. What did you think of it?

      • Hmmmm. Perhaps I don’t read as many fantasy novels as you… Tavi’s identity was kind of predictable, true. However, some of the events were still surprising and quite awesome 🙂 I loooove Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s fury and Princep’s Fury. Some things were obvious – as you said, the good guys and villains. However, the sequence of events and some of the twists, those are what made the series for me.

        For TAW, it was definitively stronger than Furies of Calderon. But to say that it’s already stronger than the whole Codex Alera series, I think it’s too soon. I just couldn’t help seeing the similarities, you know… The multiple POVs/story threads and the cats instead of the canins… and it does feel like most of the characters serve an obvious purpose/are a bit of a stereotype. Captain Grimm is for sure the most interesting character and I’m looking forward to read more. Also, I’m still a bit lost about the world… but I guess that it’ll be cleared as the series progress. I’m definitively reading this series 🙂

      • Oh, totally agree it’s too early to say if the Cinder Spires series will be better than Codex overall – it could all go downhill in the next book 😉 I do love the fact we don’t actually know that much about the world yet, I’m hoping for some big reveals later on.

        I just had a look and there’s no confirmed release date for the next book yet though. Apparently it’s not expected to be a 2016 release…

  4. I hear you about November! It was a crazy month. December is looking like it will be nuts too.

    Jim Butcher’s new series looks interesting! I haven’t read his Dresden books, but I might check this one out. 😀

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