I was incredibly excited to get a copy of this book to review through NetGalley. I absolutely adore Butcher's Dresden Files. I also read the Codex Alera series and thought it decent. This book has more of a steampunk feel to it...and it was incredibly disappointing and boring. I finally gave up reading it 55% of the way through.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship the Predator, his ship has taken heavy damage during an encounter with another ship. Despite being forced out of Spire Albion's armed forces he is fiercely loyal to to Albion. When Grimm returns to port at Spire Albion to repair his ship he finds it under attack and does his best to help the people of Albion. However, the Spirearch of Albion has different plans for Grimm and asks that he accompany some young cadets and some etherists on a mission of extreme importance. Grimm agrees, but only because the Spirearch also agrees to repair the Predator to her former glory.
The story switches viewpoint between Captain Grimm and some cadets who are training to be in the military. The three cadets the story focuses on are Gwen (a noble woman determined to learn to fight), Benedict (a warriorborn who also fights and is related to Gwen), and Bridget (a young woman from a failing noble house who is struggling to keep her house afloat).
I really really struggled with reading this and finally gave up about 55% of the way through the story. Pretty much every aspect of this book is poorly done. The biggest downfall of the book for me was the sheer boredom of reading it; I seriously fell asleep every time I started reading this book...it was soooo boring.
The world seems half-formed and is hard to picture and imagine; there just isn't enough description or reference points for the reader to figure out what type of world they are in.
There are a ton of characters thrown at the reader quickly and none of them are all that interesting. They are all very stereotypical to the point of being caricatures. You have Gwen the spoiled noble woman who is petite and beautiful but tough when she needs to be; you have Folly the insane magic user, and Captain Grimm the misunderstood yet noble ship captain. I didn't find any of them to be interesting or engaging.
Then there is the story. I was halfway through the book and still have no idea what this story is about. Spire Albion was attacked and is now starting a war with another Spire who attacked them. I don't have a good idea what Spires actually are; they seem to be underground cities or enclosed cities of some sort? I was never clear on that.. Then our characters are supposed to leave Spire Albion for an important reason but we never really know what it is.
Next there are the airship battles. I am really not a fan of reading about either naval or airship battles. I always have trouble picturing what's going on unless the scenes are really well done. The scenes with Captain Grimm were especially excruciating to get through because I just could not picture what was happening. This is more of a personal preference thing..but me and ship battles just don't mix, they do not interest me even a tiny bit.
The only positive thing I can say about the story is that the writing flows well and there weren't any technical flaws with how it was written.
Overall this story was a big disappointment, especially given how excited I was to start a new Jim Butcher series. The story is boring and doesn't seem to have a point, the world is strangely undefined, and the characters are forgettable and unengaging. Every time I picked up this book and started reading I immediately got sleepy and fell asleep. I will definitely not be reading this series.
Please don't let this book be the first example of steampunk literature you read. There are a ton of great steampunk books out there. If you are interested in reading steampunk I would check out any of the following series, they are all great steampunk reads: House Immortal by Devon Monk (okay this ones not totally steampunk, but it is awesome), the Treasure Chronicles by Jordan Elizabeth, The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato, The Electric Empire by Viola Carr, The Iron Seas by Meljean Brook, The Baskerville Affair by Emma Jane Holloway, and the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest.