The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher
Frequently, it's really hard for me to talk about a new Jim Butcher book without it just being, Aaaaaah! Fanboy! Gush, gush, squee! Drool! Squee! and More Squee!, and I really wanted to do more with this book, so I wanted a little distance. Alas, almost three months later, I'm still not going to be able to do much more than that -- I think it'll take another entry or two in this series for me to start to evaluate it well. But, I'd best get something up, so I'll try to rein in the fanboy.
Let's start off with the genre -- it's marketed as Steampunk.  What a dreadful idea. This is only sort of Steampunk. It's more of a Fantasy with elements inspired by Steampunk.  I've seen some fans -- and perhaps Butcher himself -- say that it should  be considered "Steam Opera." That's not bad. (I saw one online advertisement calling it "Urban Fantasy," I trust whoever wrote/approved that advertisement was chastised soundly).
I don't know how to describe the world or the plot without taking a few large paragraphs, and probably not doing a good job of it. Butcher's website says:
It’s jam-packed with airships, crazy sorcerers, privateers, warrior monks, and intelligent cats. An ancient evil has reawakened, and the entire world is plunged into a sinister mist, filled with terrible creatures.
Which is pretty close, but there are more details given, too. If you're curious, go check it out.  For me? I didn't really care -- the words "New", "Butcher" and "Series" were enough to get me to click "Buy."
Okay, so plot and world are out. What about characters? I liked Grimm -- a.k.a. the guy on the cover -- (and maybe a couple of others in his crew) from the get-go. They just clicked for me -- they're the heroic type, misunderstood, but classic heroes, and I'm a sucker for them. The Spirearch, too -- his type is another gimme. But the others, Gwen, Briget, etc. took a while for me to warm to -- but when I did, I fell hard for them. I could actually sense it happening -- even with the stupid cat, for crying out loud! (not that the cat is stupid, but that's petty much my opinion of the species)
One character in particular that I'd want to talk about (I think in future books, I might have to just devote a post to character studies) is Folly. I've seen plenty of comparisons of Folly to Rothfuss' Auri --  all of which are valid, but she should also be seen as a take on Luna Lovegood, some sort of combination of the two. Still, whoever you want to compare her to, she's a fun character that I can't wait to see grow and develop. And when she does that thing with the Predator? Wow, I tell you what...
Of course there is the hook at the end of every chapter, Butcher's skilled at using them to propel you on to the next chapter. But, at the same time, I had a compulsion to put down the book at the end of each chapter. I'm not sure why, maybe to think about it, to take it all in -- oddly, it was really easy to put the book down at the end of each chapter. Until the last 150 pages or so, and then I couldn't move fast enough.
As interesting as the novel was once things got moving, he shifted into another gear when he got to the climactic battle scene -- or several battle scenes that you can't imagine keep going on. Yet they do keep going on and they keep getting more and more interesting and heroic. You see heroics from everyone, not just the central characters. Then he followed that up with an epilogue of sorts, full of so many warm moments, followed by some grim realities, and then truly chilling closing paragraph or two. Butcher at his best.
I want to give this 5 stars, but something's holding me 4.5 it is. Gush, gush, gush. Squee, squee, squee. Bring on the next!!