GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ The Olympian Affair (The Cinder Spires Book 2) by Jim Butcher + excerpt | I Smell Sheep

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Olympian Affair (The Cinder Spires Book 2) by Jim Butcher + excerpt

The first book in the Cinder Spires series, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, published in 2015, and kicked off an all-new series about noble families, magic-wielding warriors, and airship battles. And THE OLYMPIAN AFFAIR continues this grand and glorious epic fantasy, set in a world of noble families, magical weapons, intelligent cats, and flying airships.

The Olympian Affair (The Cinder Spires Book 2)
by Jim Butcher
Book 2 of 2: The Cinder Spires
Nov. 7, 2023
621 pages
Genre: steampunk, fantasy adventure
The fate of the Cinder Spires may be decided by crossed swords in the next exhilarating fantasy adventure from the author of the Dresden Files, in this New York Times bestselling series of noble families, swordplay, and airships.

For centuries the Cinder Spires have safeguarded humanity, rising far above the deadly surface world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses rule, developing scientific marvels and building fleets of airships for defense and trade.

Now, the Spires hover on the brink of open war.

Everyone knows it's coming. The guns of the great airship fleets that control the skies between the last bastions of humanity will soon speak in anger, and Spire Albion stands alone against the overwhelming might of Spire Aurora's Armada and its new secret weapon--one capable of destroying the populations of entire Spires.

A trading summit at Spire Olympia provides an opportunity for the Spirearch, Lord Albion, to secure alliances that will shape the outcomes of the war, and to that end he dispatches privateer Captain Francis Madison Grimm and the crew of the AMS Predator to bolster the Spirearch's diplomatic agents.

It will take daring, skill, and no small amount of showmanship to convince the world to stand with Spire Albion--assuming that it is not already too late

Praise for The Olympian Affair
"Butcher’s long-awaited sequel to The Aeronaut’s Windlass is an exciting epic fantasy, set in the sky and filled with airships, magic, and the connections of blood and found family."—Library Journal

"Explosive. . . . Fans will find this is worth the wait."—Publishers Weekly

"Butcher’s fans will delight in the new characters and alternate Spires while enjoying favorites from the first book and will be eager for the next episode in the action-packed Cinder Spires series."—Booklist (starred review)


 Book one


Chapter 1

AMS Predator, Colony Spire Dependence

Captain Francis Madison Grimm, commander, AMS Predator, strode down the length of the deck, doing what an airship's captain all too often found a necessary duty-waiting calmly. The ship's crew had gone to general quarters in predawn, nearly eight hours before, with breaks for no more than two men at a time, and those only for biological necessity.

Mists hovered thickly over the ship, for it was barely more than a thousand feet above the lithosophere-that elevation where the growing things of the hellish surface world reached out branches, tendrils, and various other structures that could threaten a ship's physical integrity. Grimm could scarcely see from one end of Predator to the other, much less what might be happening to the armed away team of the Spirearch's Guard currently deployed to the colony Spire below.

Grimm climbed the steep ladder to the bridge and strode over to where the ship's pilot, Mister Kettle, leaned easily back against the pilot's brace, his wrists draped over the ship's steering grips, fingers hanging loosely. He was relaxed despite the hours of waiting. Kettle was a brawny, bearded veteran aeronaut. The skin around his eyes was permanently a bit lighter than the rest of his face where his goggles had shielded him from the glare of the light of the open sky far above. His forearms looked like ham hocks, and he wore his fleece-lined cold-weather aeronaut's coat unbuttoned and open in the warmth at this altitude. Sweat had run tracks down his face and neck.

"Skip," Kettle drawled easily as Grimm approached. "We should have seen or heard something from the team by now."

In response, Grimm calmly, deliberately removed his pocket watch from where it resided in his waistcoat, and he consulted its face before polishing it, closing it, and returning it to its pocket. "They're barely outside the mission window, Mister Kettle," Grimm said. "I think we shall not wail and gnash our teeth quite yet."

"Aye, Skip," Kettle replied. "But beggin' the captain's pardon, I'd be happier if Sir Benedict had sent up a rocket by now."

"I'm sure if Sir Benedict had need of us, he would have done so," Grimm replied. "Meanwhile, I'll not leave us sitting fat and happy on an unguarded docking platform. Any Auroran who ran a patrol past it would blow us to splinters."

"If they could see us in this soup," Kettle growled. A boarding ax, his weapon of choice in most ship actions, hung from a loop on his belt, and on his left hand he wore a gauntlet-a cage of copper wire wrapped around a heavy leather bracer and connected by straps and wires to the heavy leather strap that held the weapon crystal against his palm. "If the enemy comes close enough to see us in this, we'll be biting one another's noses off before anyone can aim a cannon."

There was a sudden hiss, followed by a swift trilling sound that seemed to embrace a rapid series of sharp clicks in its volume. Something flashed by in the mist off the ship's prow, a lean, sleek mass almost five yards long supported by an impossibly fine-looking webwork of glittering wings. Its body trailed a pair of long, fine talons beneath it.

Kettle's breath exploded out of him in a huff of surprise, and his gauntlet came up so he could track the creature's path as it glided by through the mist-and was gone.

Other trills echoed those of the first creature, somewhere out of sight, hauntingly sourceless in the endless grey.

"That's the fourth time that one's come by," Kettle said, his voice pitched low. "And I've seen half a dozen more, one of them even bigger. Skip, if we're down this low when it gets dark, we'll lose a dozen men to mistsharks."


"We'll be back in the aerosphere in time to see the sun set," Grimm assured him. "XO to the bridge, if you please, Mister Kettle."


"Aye, sir," Kettle replied firmly. He leaned over to one side to swing a copper-clad speaking tube to within range of his mouth so that he could bawl, "First officer to the bridge!"

In less than half a minute, there were firm boot steps on the main deck and then the sounds of the XO coming up the staircase to the bridge, at the prow of the ship, where the pilot could see the most sky around the vessel. Predator was a light, armed transport outfitted a little more heavily than the average Aetherium Fleet destroyer. Swift and agile, she was equipped with both an etheric web and wind sails for running outside the main etheric currents-and her guns could speak with an authority that could have challenged the batteries of a minor colony Spire like Dependence. Even now her own guns were trained down in the general direction of the colony, and they had been for hours, their crews waiting suspended in a state between fear for their lives and utter boredom.

Grimm noted several members of the gun crews nervously tracking the XO's progress with their eyes instead of doing their duty, and he scowled them back down to their posts as the heir of the House of Lancaster came clomping up the stairs, her boots striking the deck beneath her far more sharply than was strictly necessary.

Gwendolyn Margaret Elizabeth Lancaster was a petite woman who had acquitted herself ably in a trade where few females tried their hands-yet were always about in small numbers. Granted, most of them were warriorborn and outcasts from society in the first place, but Gwen had thrown herself into the work with a will, starting two years ago, after Predator's role in the capture of the Itasca, the storied Auroran battlecruiser now rechristened the Belligerent in a clear signal to her former masters of Fleet's intentions toward Spire Aurora.

Miss Lancaster wore an aeronaut's leathers that matched Grimm's own. The pattern was based upon the Fleet officer's uniform but rendered in black leather with silver skull-motif fittings rather than the dark blue and gold of the Fleet. The garments made her look like something out of a melodrama-and she had, in fact, been portrayed as a melodramatic heroine of Spire Albion in a number of productions about the opening conflict of the current struggle.

One that hovered precariously upon the brink of open war.

Miss Lancaster attained the bridge, came to attention, and snapped off a proper Fleet salute to Grimm. As per usual, there were smears of engine grease upon one of her cheeks-even after her elevation into the illustrious ranks of the aeronaut officers' corps of Albion, she was frequently to be found arguing with the chief of engineering, Journeyman, over Predator's systems. "Captain. We've had reports of mistsharks circling the ship from all quarters now, and the ship's glass makes it less than an hour to sundown."

"I'm aware," Grimm said calmly. "I'm going to consult with the etherealist, XO. Take the conn."

Lancaster braced to attention. "Aye, Captain, I have the conn."

 Kettle glanced back at them both with naked skepticism.

 "Problem, Mister Kettle?" Gwen asked.

 "No, ma'am," Kettle drawled. "It's just that every time you're on the conn, things seem to get interesting, Miss Lancaster, ma'am."

 "I beg your pardon, Mister Kettle," Gwen said sweetly. "But what exactly are you saying?"

 "Just saying we didn't have to go in on those pirates at three to one, ma'am," Kettle said. "We might have tried another way."

 "I said, 'Take me down their throats, so I can blow their guts out,' and that's precisely what we did," Gwen replied firmly.

 "Usually, it's ships what got all that armor that do such things, ma'am," Kettle retorted. "Since if the pirates had been a bit faster to get back to their guns, or the shroud had failed, we'd have been blown to tiny glowing pieces at that range."

 "But they weren't faster, and it didn't fail," Gwen said. "And we all made out like bandits on the salvage of the two that didn't explode, and here you are complaining."

 Kettle looked back and grinned. He'd added more gold teeth in the past few years, one of them set with a tiny lumin crystal that glowed like a star, and the gold hoop in one ear had gained a red gemstone the size of a baby's eye. "There, now you sound like a proper officer, ma'am."

"Eyes out, tongues in," Grimm said, giving Kettle a glance. "If the away team has encountered the enemy and been unable to signal us, then the enemy could know of our presence and could be in the process of hunting for us. Let's not make it easy for them."

 Lancaster frowned. "Do you think that's what's happened, Captain?"

 "It is one possibility," Grimm said, and lowered his voice pointedly. "One easily enough ensured against, eh?" He put a finger to his lips and climbed down from the bridge.

 The temperature had dropped noticeably, and through the mists, the quality of light had become warmer as the sun headed for the horizon. Night would not be far away, and the ship would need another thousand yards of sky beneath her to climb up out of the regions where the aerial predators of the surface world cruised. That distance would carry them out of range of the signal rockets of the away team. Grimm would be willing to leave the team overnight if he could be assured of their safety, but the communication would have to happen before night fell. Otherwise, he'd have to assume that nothing had gone terribly wrong.

And that was an assumption that Grimm would rather not make.

 He knocked at the door of the passenger cabin, waited a beat, and then opened it enough to say, "Miss Folly, a moment of your time?"

 "Oh, yes, do tell the captain he is welcome, of course," came a young woman's rather breathless voice. "Please, tell him to come in."

 Grimm opened the door to find the table in the little cabin set for tea for two. One of the seats was empty, though the teacup before it had been filled and prepared. In the seat opposite was the ship's etherealist, dutifully wearing her safety straps, which were attached to the chair, which was itself secured to the ship's deck.

 She wore an odd mishmash of clothing: a quilted buckskin Piker jacket with merry-colored holiday trim over several layers of tunics of Atlantean silks in various unlikely colors, and a hooped, petticoated skirt without an overdress. Her hair had been divided into two halves starting at the part in the center of her head. One side had been dyed with a flat black ink of some kind, and the other bleached almost white. Both sides had been drawn back into a braid that formed complicated whirls of light, dark, and shadow. Between the asymmetry of her colored hair and her different-colored eyes-one pale blue, the other apple green-it was enough to make her direct gaze disconcerting to those who did not know her.

 "Miss Folly," Grimm said, "I have come to a quandary, and I wonder if you might help me resolve it."

 After listening to Grimm's words, Folly straightened in her chair, then turned to address a jar of small, expended lumin crystals sitting on the table next to the teapot. "Of course. Tell the captain I am at his service." Folly smiled at the empty seat across the table. "I do beg you to forgive this interruption- Oh, so very kind."

 Grimm drew up cautiously, looking from Folly to the empty seat and back. Etherealists were well-known for their uniquely unstable personalities, but Grimm had seen enough to know that Miss Folly's madness had a great deal of method to it, and he was not prepared to discount her strangeness as simple oddity. "Am I interrupting? I do beg your pardon . . . um . . ."

 Folly smiled and shook her head. "Please let the captain know that I'm taking tea with Predator this afternoon. She seemed so tense and to need someone to talk to."

 Grimm saw no evidence of anyone in the chair, but that didn't mean that the etherealist was out of her mind-or at least, no more so than at any other given time. Before now, Folly had certainly coaxed performances out of the ship that seemed to indicate that the vessel was more than merely the sum of her parts-that business with the ship's shroud withstanding the broadsides of three enemy vessels, for example. And no airship captain, no matter how educated or refined, could entirely escape the superstition of shipboard life. All in all, he found it wiser never to disrespect Miss Folly's oddness. "As always," he said, "please convey to her my ongoing gratitude and admiration."

 "The captain knows perfectly well that Predator is entirely sensible of his feelings and supports his command," Folly replied, her tone fondly reproving. "But she's worried that the men haven't had a proper meal and that there are several mistsharks coming far too close to the ventral lookouts as shadows lengthen."

Which was information Miss Folly should have had no way of knowing, Grimm mused. The quiet words passed up the line to officers would not have reached this cabin, and the door had been shut all day. And yet somehow the young woman knew what was happening around the ship. Her awareness should have seemed damned unnatural, but after two years' worth of her regular presence aboard, he tended to regard such matters much as he did the effectiveness of the ship's grapevines-word would get around regardless of what anyone wished. It just so happened that in Miss Folly's particular case, the only other apparent participant in her grapevine was the ship herself.

 "Part of my problem," he assured her. "I need to know if the ship can show us anything of the shore party. We can't remain at this altitude for much longer, and we should have heard from them by now."

 Folly put down her teacup with a sharp clink. "Oh, goodness. That is worrisome." She turned to the chair across from her and leaned forward, speaking in a confidential murmur. Then she paused and tilted her head as if listening to a similarly pitched reply. Then she addressed the jar of crystals again. "Please tell the captain that Predator will be able to display significant sources of etheric power to him-the weapons crystals of the shore party's gauntlets, for example. She will show them to you as sources of red light upon the inside of the ship's shroud as she has before."

 "Excellent, Miss Folly," Grimm said. "Thank you."

 Running with Predator's shroud up would put wear on her core etheric systems, but the additional knowledge to be gained by the vision those same systems could offer (with Miss Folly's assistance) was priceless. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

About the author:
Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires. His resume includes a laundry list of skills which were useful a couple of centuries ago, and he plays guitar quite badly. An avid gamer, he plays tabletop games in varying systems, a variety of video games on PC and console, and LARPs whenever he can make time for it. Jim currently resides mostly inside his own head, but his head can generally be found in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

Jim goes by the moniker Longshot in a number of online locales. He came by this name in the early 1990s when he decided he would become a published author. Usually, only 3 in 1000 who make such an attempt actually manage to become published; of those, only 1 in 10 make enough money to call it a living. The sale of a second series was the breakthrough that let him beat the long odds against attaining a career as a novelist.

All the same, he refuses to change his nickname.

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