I liked this book, but there are a few issues I have with it. I'm not a fan of coming-of-age stories because they tend to be filled with clichés and tI liked this book, but there are a few issues I have with it. I'm not a fan of coming-of-age stories because they tend to be filled with clichés and this story has many of them. I suppose you could call them tropes, instead. In defense of Jim Butcher, this is the first book which is obviously introducing the series, so many of the tropes are necessary to set up the characters and foreshadow events in later plots. However, I don't feel any of the characters are fleshed out enough. A few of the supporting characters are even two dimensional, but they don't feature large in this first book so it really isn't a big deal, but they still come across as "off the shelf".
Some of the good things about the book are the settings and the technology/magic. It's clear JB thought through these aspects of the story very thoroughly. Like he did with the 'Dresden Files' he has established rules for how things work in this series. I think the method for propelling the ships is particularly well considered and I really like the fact that the ships have reasonable limitations and vulnerabilities. He also has thought through the tactics used in ship to ship combat and they make sense. Kudos to him for that.
One thing I've noted in other reviews of this book is a distinct reaction to the cats. People seem to dislike them. Personally, I don't think they act much like real cats and there are a few inconstancies in their behavior, or rather the behavior of the main cat character. I have to say I think the other characters' reactions to the cats are a bit unrealistic. It seems like they are too impressed with the creatures. More than that I felt too much was made of the cats in general. If they really are so badass, why aren't they running things instead of the humans? And if they despise humans so much, why do they interact with them at all? I suppose this aspect of the series will find its level in later books.
Overall, the book is worth reading and it is one of the better Steampunk novels I have come across. Admittedly, Steampunk is supposed to be dystopian and this book is not. At least, the characters and Spire Albion are not dystopian. Spire Aurora sounds as if it probably is, therefore, the series can be seated comfortably in the genre.
On a final note: I have a little knowledge of some of the books Jim Butcher has read. I can see a number of aspects in the Cinder Spires that have clearly been influenced by the Hornblower Saga and the Honor Harrington series. It remains to be seen how much these will continue to influence the series and whether or not that is a good thing.
Addendum: I just realized something about the cats. Generally speaking, they remind me of Chiun, the martial arts master from the movie 'Remo Williams'. ...more
I had so much hope and good feeling towards this book when I found out about it and so much utter disappointment when I read it. If you are a fan of tI had so much hope and good feeling towards this book when I found out about it and so much utter disappointment when I read it. If you are a fan of the Raj Whitehall series, please do not buy this book. It does not belong with the others. This is mostly because it was not well written. In fact, I was left wondering if Tony Daniel had read all of the existing stories or not. I also had to wonder if he had read any of them more than once. Additionally, I wondered if Tony Daniel had even taken a creative writing course which is probably an unfair suspicion.
If I were rating just the first third of the book, I would give it three stars. I liked that part. The author was covering ground fairly well trodden by David Drake and S.M. Stirling, but he was writing differently enough to keep it interesting. If Tony Daniel had maintained this level of writing the book would have come out to be an acceptable addition to the series. BUT the writing dropped off more and more as the story progressed.
For me the turning point from "I like this." to "Why the hell am I reading this?" came when the Mary Sue entered the tale. Never mind that the author had introduced a perfectly acceptable female character who could easily have developed into the female counterpart of the hero. He certainly didn't mind that. In fact he threw her away right after he introduced her. She was interesting. She had a back story I would have enjoyed reading about. She was positioned with clear motive to support the hero. The history and introduction of her people had her set up to be awesome! But no. Tony Daniel at some point said, "I have a better idea." and he didn't. He fell back on what many authors have done with too many stories. He forced the readers to accept a new character that didn't have much to recommend her just so he could have a standard, unattainable love interest. Bernard Cornwell did this so much better with his Sharpe series that it doesn't rate going over where Tony Daniel went wrong.
I think what Mr. Daniel really needed was a beta that was worth their salt. Someone needed to stand up and ask some hard questions like: "Why are you including all of this stuff that does not move the story forward?" I'm not talking about a paragraph or two or even a page or two. I'm talking about entire chapters worth of text that I skimmed over because it was as dull as dull can be. He could have knocked out an entire section of this book and it would have made the story better. It would have done so not by improving the plot, but by shortening the tale. And the little side adventures he sends his character on by having Center, the sentient computer, show him how machines of the past worked were redundant in what they presented. The first time it happened was fine, but when he does it again and again it gets old. I wanted to scream, "I get the point! Now just tell your story!"
The last two thirds of the book seem to focus on trying to get the reader to see how wicked and evil the main villain is and how corrupt the rulers of the world are. Fine. No problem. At least until you consider how poorly this was done. The bad guy the hero has to face off against really isn't that interesting. He isn't smart. He's ruthless, sure, but not smart. Worse than being boring, the reader is never left in doubt as to whether or not the hero will succeed in defeating this enemy. It's obvious from the get go that he is going to win and suffer very little while doing so. It becomes even more obvious after the Mary Sue joins in. Hell, she could have won this war in a week and had enough time to write her memoirs while doing it.
Honestly, I think Tony Daniel came under some sort of deadline and just rushed through to the end. The last portion of the book reads as if he phoned it in. Other indicators of this deadline theory of mine are his repeated wrong word usage and the occasional slip up where he uses the word 'horse' instead of the invented animal 'dont'. If he had had time to run his chapters by a proper beta reader and an editor I think he would have crafted a much better book. I think he was also worried about word count which is really important in modern novels. Sadly, the author could have written the story in a much more interesting way and probably increased his word count in doing so. Instead of telling the reader what was happing he could have taken the readers along on the adventure and shown us what was happening. A missed opportunity never to be regained.
In short, this was a poorly written book I wish I had not read. The only reason I could call this a page turner is that I was trying to get to the good parts. There were far too few to make it worth the trouble. Alas....more
Not entirely satisfied with this book. The parts involving the school were a little off the shelf. Typical upper class bullies and the typical "nerds"Not entirely satisfied with this book. The parts involving the school were a little off the shelf. Typical upper class bullies and the typical "nerds" being picked on. The adventure aspect wasn't bad and there is a measureable improvement in style. This book certainly sets up events for later in the series....more
This was a smoother read than the previous two books in the series, but I think it may be the last one I read. The battles are interesting and some ofThis was a smoother read than the previous two books in the series, but I think it may be the last one I read. The battles are interesting and some of the characters are, too. However, many of the characters in this book were "off the shelf". There is one in particular that is so clichéd he is ridiculous. Others are better written, but their actions are completely predictable and that makes reading about them less interesting....more
I actually did not want to give this three stars, but the book was better than a two star rating would suggest.
I became irritated with all of the cryI actually did not want to give this three stars, but the book was better than a two star rating would suggest.
I became irritated with all of the cryptic hints and the complete lack of anything resembling answers. The adventure aspect was pretty interesting, but there seemed to be a lot of surprising new skills in our main character. Granted, he has been through a lot in the first three novels, but these skills are being attributed to things he did before the first book. Worse yet the supporting characters were verging on being more irritating than enjoyable.
I just was not satisfied with the overall result....more
Of the first four books in this series I like this one the best. The mystery is much more tightly knit than the others and there is less angst involveOf the first four books in this series I like this one the best. The mystery is much more tightly knit than the others and there is less angst involved. There are also more characters with interesting personalities which is strange because there are fewer characters than in the first novel....more
This was a good book. It was not great. It was not terrible. It was just a good book. I think that's usually enough for most readers and should certaiThis was a good book. It was not great. It was not terrible. It was just a good book. I think that's usually enough for most readers and should certainly be enough for any author.
What I liked about the book was the grand panorama of it. It takes place in an India that never was while telling a plausible tale of what could have been if the right circumstances occurred. (Thank goodness they did not.) There are plenty of characters to like and dislike, though one or two are not as three dimensional as I would prefer. The locations range from the middle of nowhere to the palace of the king emperor, so there is plenty of scenery to get lost in. The action scenes are solidly written, as I have come to expect from S.M. Stirling. All these things are good and I am sure there are more that others will be drawn to when they read it.
What keeps this book from being very good? Well, there is one particular character that can't quite decide if she is a Mary Sue or not. You'll know her as soon as you read her first scene. For a change, it is not the scientist who happens to be an outdoorsy Suffragette. The character in question is a spoiled brat that everyone somehow tolerates. There are good reasons for them to tolerate her and she is not entirely perfect as perfect can be, but she does things that seem completely implausible, in some cases requiring a physical condition that is never supported by additional information.
What else? One of the bad guys is almost completely off the shelf. Worse, he is never quite dastardly enough to really get me to hate him. His thugs are also off the shelf and not developed in the least, though that probably is not necessary. His defeat is no surprise and rather ignoble. Again that is probably for the best. He's just sort of lame, all things considered. I think my biggest problem with this character is that he is in the book too long and he is too notable to be treated in the fashion he is treated. A little more or a lot less was necessary to get him out of the irritating distraction category.
Stylistically I think the book did well. There are a couple of points where the story dragged, telling me things I really didn't care about. That happens in every story, though. For other readers those points might be the saving grace of the story. I will say, though, that a climactic battle should be climactic. A writer should not tack on another battle at the end just so certain characters can have their "moments". I think this story could have ended a little differently and been more satisfying. Looking back over what I read last night I can see one way to end it that certainly would have been plausible and satisfyingly dramatic without dragging the story out.
To sum up, I think this book is worth reading if you like your intrigue with an alternate history/steampunk feel to it. It's an adventure novel and is written well enough to keep the reader engaged. It's few faults are not glaring and I think that is a credit to the skill of S.M. Stirling. Go ahead and pick up a copy. The entertainment is worth the price. ...more
I couldn't finish this book. I just was not interested in the characters. The story was taking too long to develop. What I did read was not the greateI couldn't finish this book. I just was not interested in the characters. The story was taking too long to develop. What I did read was not the greatest but not the worst. I guess this one was just not my sort of story....more
I did make it all of the way through this book but only because I had nothing else to read at the time. Not really worth bothering with for me. I coulI did make it all of the way through this book but only because I had nothing else to read at the time. Not really worth bothering with for me. I couldn't even bring myself to be interested in the characters....more
The story itself was not that amazing. The idea of the Earth being invaded and the humans being manipulated while defending themselves has been done bThe story itself was not that amazing. The idea of the Earth being invaded and the humans being manipulated while defending themselves has been done before. So minus two stars for a lack of originality. The remaining three stars all go to the characters. Ringo wrote a so-so story but saved it with good characters that were not too tough to root for. They do fall into classic fifties era stereotypes but even with that I liked them. This series is not the sort of scifi I normally go for. It is similar to some of the David Drake stories and the David Brin stories I like but lacks the compelling plot devices and shades of grey that really make characters interesting. A good book if you have a lot of time to kill on a trip....more