This post features a couple of the series books I’ve read in the last few months. I read some of these a while ago, so I’m afraid these reviews will be pretty brief. Two more to come next Sunday.
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
This was one of my favorite books of the year, a fantasy steam-punk novel in the same vein as Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series. But Butcher brings his world-building and character development skills to make this book a cut above the rest. In this story of a war between Spires, what you get is swashbuckling adventure and intrigue that doesn’t stop — airship battles, etherists who speak to crystals, cats who can talk (but only when they want to), and gigantic insect-like predators. The story is fun and fast-paced but the characters keep things interesting. The female characters are strong, though young, and they develop throughout the story. I have to admit one of the things that makes this book for me is the character of Rowl, the cat. Butcher’s depiction of cats felt dead-on accurate and hilarious. In one scene Rowl has to negotiate with another cat, and the negotiation consists of the two cats spending an hour licking themselves: the cat who shows the most indifference to the other wins. It’s really hard to explain cats, but if you love them, you will love this book.
You could argue there’s nothing terribly new in this story, and you could also say there are too many characters and plot elements. But even with all that (and maybe because of the cat) I loved this book.
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
This is a YA book, and it feels that way, but that’s what Westerfeld excels at. If you like unusual takes on the superhero genre, like Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, you’ll find this an entertaining book. What I liked most was that the superpowers are really unusual and problematic. One character can influence the feeling of a crowd; another character has an all-knowing but uncontrollable second voice; and a third character is blind but can see from anyone else’s eyes. The most interesting and troubling character slips from the memory of anyone he encounters, rendering him basically invisible. This book explores the idea of superpowers as a curse or a sickness rather than a strength, and also recognizes the complicated relationships among teenagers whether they have superpowers or not. The plot isn’t terribly realistic, but it didn’t really need to be. You see this story from a lot of points of view, which sometimes bothers me but didn’t here. Also this book is co-written by three authors but that also didn’t bother me. I didn’t care for Westerfeld’s last book, Afterworlds, but I’m a big fan of his Uglies series, and I can recommend this one.
Part 2 coming next week: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin and Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton