British Fiction Focus

Covering The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Calling all Jim Butcher fans. Have I got news for you? Well, if you’ll pardon my reappropriation of the name of a popular panel show, you can be damn sure I do!

A year and change on from the publication of Skin Game, the fifteenth and final Dresden File for the foreseeable, Orbit Books has unveiled Chris McGrath’s cover art for The Aeronaut’s Windlass. The Aeronaut’s Windlass, in case you weren’t aware, is the first volume of The Cinder Spires—a shiny new steampunky series that’s a little like “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower,” according to the author.

Now we’ve known The Cinder Spires was on the way since Butcher revealed it to Reddit in an Ask Me Anything way back when in November 2012, but of this morning, we know a whole lot more.

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 leaders 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…

Sounds a little like the Tales of the Ketty Jay to yours truly, with a soupçon of steam and a sprinkling of ancient evil. So: delicious and nutritious! But Chris McGrath’s cover art is more interested in Captain Grimm and his cutlass than in the bigger picture.


Anyone else watching Black Sails out there? I only ask because the resemblance between McGrath’s Grimm and that drama’s Jack Rackham really appeals to me.

In any event, if you have a hankering for “goggles and airships and steam power and bizarre crystal technology and talking cats, who are horrid little bullies”—because of course they are—The Aeronaut’s Windlass will be published in the UK by Orbit Books on September 29th, in advance of at least two sequels set amongst the same Spires.

Time enough to get excited, right?

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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