Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2016)

Miles above the dangerous surface of the mist-shrouded world, aristocratic house Spire Albion is engaged in a cold war with Spire Aurora, each protected by their own armadas of airships powered by giant crystals. Commander of the merchant ship Predator, Captain Grimm sides with Spire Albion. But when an attack with another cruiser goes awry and Predator is severely damaged, Grimm and friends accept a mission on behalf of the Spirearch of Albion to escort Etherealist Efferus Effrenus Ferus on a clandestine investigation.

In addition to steam, goggles, and Victorian dress, magic crystals, ethersilk, and ship-shrouds round out this adventurous mashup of steampunk and high (altitude) fantasy. Plus, there’s the cats. Rowl and his clowder are intelligent and proud, with POV chapters of their own, and inject a lot of humor into the story, especially for readers who know a cat personally.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a fun and entertaining romp, but I do not quite connect to any of the characters, of which there are many, including the rouge airship captain, an eccentric wizard and his apprentice, and three recently enrolled teenager cadets from aristocratic houses. The multiple third person POVs are difficult to differentiate in voice, and individually, their motivations, thoughts, and actions are predictable. While the cats are interesting, they are a one-trick pony unto themselves. 

Recommended as a light-hearted, action-filled, and humorous fantasy for fans of steampunk.

“Each creature had something it excelled at, he supposed. Humans could manage knots easily, and cats could do everything else.”