End Date: February 24th
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Fantasy / Steampunk
Pages: 768 (paperback)
Selected By: BillMo
“Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity. Within their halls, the ruling aristocratic houses develop scientific marvels, foster trade alliances, and maintain fleets of airships to keep the peace.
“Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship Predator. 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 damaged in combat, Grimm joins a team of Albion agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring his ship.
“And as Grimm undertakes this task, he learns 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…”
“And I know very well that the only way to absolutely ensure that she pursues any given course of action is for me to forbid her to do so.”
“Don’t tell me my business, you jumped-up wollypog.”
It was funny, Grimm mused, how often in life a bit of judicious silence could come in handy.
It did not matter how delicious the food tasted – burning one’s tongue was an undignified experience and he did not intend to repeat it.
Two blind men can’t have a very dignified chase.
Being incompetent was surprisingly draining upon one’s confidence. And annoying.
One didn’t practice falling. One simply landed on one’s feet.
“Because scandal, old friend, is ever so much more enjoyable than propriety. Such things are the spice of life.”
“Politics is the purview of scoundrels, tyrants, and fools. I only observe because I prefer not to become their victim.”
“Goats are actually rather gentle, sensible creatures,” Addly replied in a mild tone, “and they rarely burst into duels. Certainly not after an all-nighter.”
“We’re a civilized society, are we not?” Esterbrook blinked. “Since when, Miss? We’re a democracy.”
“This one,” Rowl said, looking at Grimm. “This one seems smarter than most humans, Littlemouse. I have decided that he may stay.”
“Those who write them [books] do [have souls],” Ferus said. “They leave bits and pieces behind them when they lay down the words, some scraps and smears of their essential nature.”
“Oh, God in Heaven, man, do gather up your scrotum and fight!” Gwen snarled.
“Everyone begs everyone’s pardon, but I’ve never seen a pardon. Is it near the spleen?”
“There are humans on a ship of wood with tall trees on it. As its sole purpose is to transport me, I have declared it mine, and my scent is upon it.”
It did seem fitting, after all, that one be present for one’s own death, not out wandering about like a willful child shirking her chores.
“But wars are not simply about objective measurements. They are about will, Miss Lancaster, about belief.”
“When I close my eyes… I’m not quite sure I need to be asleep to have nightmares anymore, Captain.”
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Rowl & Bridgette.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
Firstly, I have not read any of the Dresden series and this is my first exposure to Jim Butcher and I must say, I liked it! The story captured my attention and was well crafted. The steam punk theme was appealing and well thought out. However, I have some points of contention with his portrayal of women/girls.
My first bone of contention in Gwen Lancaster. She’s headstrong and entitled, as her station would allow. Her all knowing and so certain attitude, causes her and those around her more friction than comfort. Honestly, you are a teenager know-it-all brat that made me want to take her gauntlet and fire it on her. Her intentions are good, but the delivery is absolutely horrendous. For instance, her attempts at coming to Bridget’s aide during a dispute with another tyrannical brat, while good intentioned, was so ill-conceived, she managed to escalate the issue rather than de-escalate as she intended. It is pointed out to her on several occasions that her self-assuredness causes her to be less than tactful and quite frankly a bully. I’ll say that she comes in handy with equipment, but people, not so much. Actually, there is only one scene where she proves to be a bit more tactful and that was when dealing with Benedict and his need to eat larger meals than the average person. Gwen handled that situation with grace that she lacks throughout the novel. She might consider going into engineering in the future, because heck, she’s got that knack, but diplomacy is lost on her.
Secondly, Bridget Tarquin drove me nuts with her naiveté. While she is technically from the nobility, she is from a lesser house, or a house that has lost its notoriety over the years. They are the working aristocracy, if you will. Bridget has enough pride in herself to stick up for herself against bullies. However, when dealing with others, she goes in wide-eyed and might as well be Pollyanna with a bit of an attitude. She’s good with her hands and has a brute strength that can be appreciated. Yet, while she will put herself in the line of danger to protect her friends and stand up against indignities, she’s a bit inept at times. She proves her worth throughout the novel and I can appreciate her more than Gwen, yet overall, she did annoy me throughout the novel.
Folly. Oh Folly. Whether Butcher was making an obvious play on her behavior and the intentions of her being so eccentric that you kind of dismiss her throughout the book, remains to be seen. I understand that we are to accept her eccentricity as a matter of her practice of being an Etherealist; however, her flightiness is such that I found myself rolling my eyes each time she spoke. I almost felt like she was one of the precognates from Minority Report with a twist of White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Every time she speaks I wanted to bash my head against a table. However, just as the other two do, she proves her worth and I can’t truly be mad at her. It just grated on my nerves that his portrayal of women is so arbitrary and I’m not getting into the two female “villains” of the novel.
Democracy is violence.
My main issue with Butcher’s portrayal of women, is the extreme nature of each woman. There is no one female that is a good mix of woman. Each epitomizes one trait or another. Folly is just purely bizarre. Lady Lancaster and Calliope are pure manipulation. While they may be attempting to manipulate for the right reasons, it still irked me that the only way they could achieve, or attempt achieve their goal was to manipulate the person they allegedly care about. I do not care for these tactics, but it is what it is. Then we have Gwendolyn being the bull in a china shop type of a character, that had me wanting someone to sock her in her mouth half of the novel. Finally, Bridget is just so naive and full of brute strength (yes, I said brute strength in a girl), that she’s kinda the oaf of the novel. I will admit, each character is a bit more complex than what I am laying out. Nonetheless, how each was portrayed was so blatant, I could only see those in your face characterizations. While I was most struck by the portrayal of the women, the men could also be considered in the same light.
I’ll start with Rowl. I’ll have you know, I cast my orange cat, as Rowl, if Rowl were one eyed and a bit sweeter. I must say, I think Butcher hit the nail on the head with Rowl’s attitude toward people in general. He was honest, fearless if not cocky. However, he is constantly thinking, much like most cats. For those he respects, he thinks of in cat terms and provides cat names for them, including Bridget (Little Mouse) and Grimm (Ship Tall Trees). He has even made a match, at least in his own head, between Bridget and Benedict. He has a sense of adventure, pride and arrogance that makes him uniquely cat and still loveable. He is a warrior at heart and he fit in nicely with the rabble in which he finds himself associated.
Benedict is a member of the Spirearch Guard, a member of house Lancaster and warriorborn. Now, I’m unsure what we are to expect of them, but it appears to me that they be a combination of human and cat (catlike eyes). They are known for their fierceness and general ability to soldier. However, there is a softer side to Benedict. While he may be warriorborn, he understands diplomacy, unlike his stubborn cousin Gwen. We can attribute his wisdom to the age gap, his service in the Spirearch Guard and his travels with the Guard. We learn that he is willing to learn, teach and champion those who are not so well equipped to handle their way of life. I appreciated the gravity he lends to the situations that required it, and his willingness and ability to lend his muscle as needed. If anything, Benedict reminds me of a younger, and quite possibly a bit fiercer version of Grimm and Esterbrook (also warriorborn of the House of Lancaster).
Captain Grimm, like Benedict is the picture of duty and honor. Grimm has been expelled from the Spirearch “navy” based on some trumped-up charges. Yes, he’s a scapegoat and has every reason to rail against the establishment. Though we find him to be a privateer during this novel, it does not negate his sense of duty and honor. He reluctantly takes on the task, but at the behest of his king, what else would he do? Grimm is the picture of the officer who is more concerned with his crew and vessel than he is with himself. He is knowledgeable, daring and no matter what, his men are willing to follow him into the bowels of Hell to achieve their mission. He’s kind where needed, tactful where required and tenacious in all his pursuits. I pictured him as the actor, Rupert Friend and thought, “yeah, two character crushes this time.”
I did not spend a great deal of time analyzing Ferus, as he’s Folly’s mentor and quite frankly, just as bat**** insane as she is. However, their quirkiness is defined by their Etherealism. Ferus teaches his apprentices on how to cope with their “affliction”. Where Folly cannot speak to people directly, a simple doorknob confounds Ferus. We find that their primary nemesis was a former acolyte of Ferus, who has since been drawn to the Dark Side. He’s the ill-equipped Obi-Wan Kenobi facing off against his former pupil Darth Vader. Not sure if that is what Butcher was going for, but there are further parallels that could be derived from Star Wars that I refuse to delve into.
At any rate, I quite enjoyed the reading of this novel by Euan Morton. He lent a certain credibility to each character. At no point did I find myself rolling my eyes at the way he narrated any portion of the novel. I found myself emotionally involved with the characters and actually looking forward to the next installment. Dependent on my time constraints and whether he is reading the book or not, I’d be inclined to listen to Euan Morton’s next rendition of the sequel (please pick him for the next reading).
Overall this is a solid selection. However, I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s not a five for me. It just didn’t get quite hit the level of The Passage, but perhaps the sequel will.
Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Rowl, Grimm, & Benedict
Lady Esbe listened to the Audible version, narrated by Euan Morton, of this selection.
Elle Tea: —
Caveat: Elle did not read February’s selection.
Elle Tea’s Favorite Character(s): N/A