1. Butcher seems to go his own carefree way with many words, heedless of any actual dictionary definitions. So, for example, the characters in this world live in huge circular towers far above the ground, which he calls “spires” — but spires are tapered or pointed, not cylindrical. One of the types of airships that sail between the towers is called a “windlass,” which is actually a “device for raising or hauling objects.” (Yeah, I had to look that one up.) There are neighborhoods in the spires called spirals, which — as you’ve probably guessed by now — consist of streets in perfectly straight lines.
2. Both female leads are forthright, plucky, and kick-ass, to the point where I started confusing one with the other. One is rich and small and the other one isn’t and isn’t, and that’s about the only difference I could find between them.
3. The villain is a beautiful, sensuous woman, because of course she is.
4. The book is too long and takes far too many chapters to get going. The first chapter, for example, could have been eliminated without any problem.
5. Folly is Sandman’s Delirium with the serial numbers filed off, down to her mismatched eyes.
6. Butcher does his usual poor job of description. For one neighborhood we’re told that it’s crowded and built of wood, and that’s pretty much it. (To be fair, the wood part is important because it means the neighborhood’s rich — the surface of this world is dangerous, making it difficult to harvest trees.)
7. Cats. What is the sf fascination with cats?
And yet, weirdly, it was hard to stop reading once I got to the second half. Butcher has a very neat trick for compelling your attention — he puts his protagonists into situations where they’re completely outnumbered, where they know they almost certainly won’t survive. And then, just when you think it’s hopeless, that there’s no way of getting out of this one — another opposing force attacks, and this time it’s really hopeless. (A problem with this approach, unfortunately, is that after each battle the protagonists are usually so beat up they should be on bed-rest for a year, and yet the next chapter has them heading into still another confrontation.)
I might even read the next one in the series if I wasn’t sure that it would go on for about twenty-seven more books. There’s even a suggestion of another, and much worse, Big Bad coming up. Still, it’s not as bad as I feared — toward the end I didn’t even mind about the cats.