YBB Previews: The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher
Release Date: November 7th, 2023
I have a disclosure to make. It’s impossible for me to objective with Jim Butcher. I’ll start this review with a story that many who have visited the store have already heard.
Years ago, I had the absolute worst year of my life while I was still in the Air Force. Like, I’m still going to therapy for it. To make it through, I escaped into a number of fantasy books, and when things stabilized enough, I reached out to several of those authors. Exactly one responded, Butcher. He sent me a long, thoughtful, and incredibly kind email at a pivotal low point in my life.
Attached to the email was a word document with the first draft of The Aeronaut’s Windlass. It was full of typos and mistakes, and I read it voraciously. One day, I hope to have the opportunity to get Butcher to sign a printout of the email to put up on my wall.
All of that preamble aside, The Olympian Affair is the sequel to that book. Even before getting the advance reader copy, I knew I was going to enjoy it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much.
It’s common in science fiction for a story to take a genre and lift it, genre expectations and all, into space. Firefly is a Western… but in space. Star Trek is Lewis and Clark… but in space. Star Wars is World War II, but in space. The Cinder Spires do the opposite. Butcher takes a space opera, with the ensemble cast and intricately woven plotlines and spaceship battles and drops them all into a unique fantasy world.
The Cinder Spires are giant pillars of stone that tower above a perilous mist-covered, monster-infested world. For safety, humanity (and sentient cats) have clambered up above the mist to the safety of the skies, and use crystal-powered airships to get from spire to spire.
The first book rips open a political rift between the two most politically important spires, and this one dives deep into the power vacuum that follows. Plots are made, backs are stabbed, duels are fought, ships exchange cannonballs and magical lasers far above the misty death far below.
Honestly, even if I weren’t already a Butcher fanboy, this book may be the one to push me the rest of the way there. The characters are remarkably deep, the political intrigue is nuanced and clever, and the women aren’t two-dimensional. I know that last point is redundant, but it’s worth hanging a lantern on.
Overall, this may be my favorite Jim Butcher book yet.
Review copy provided by NetGalley, all opinions are my own.