I’m back with yet another installment in my reading challenge series. This time we’re discussing #86, The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher. According to the all-knowing internet, there are 6 books in this series. For this challenge I read the first one, “Furies of Calderon”, published in 2004.
The story has multiple threads, but the main ones follow Amara, a Cursor (a sort of combination courier-spy), and Tavi, an apprentice shepherd. This book is quite action-packed even from the start, when Amara uncovers the scope of a plot to overthrow the First Lord and the treachery of her teacher, Cursor Fidelias. Amara escapes the enemy camp and after reporting to the First Lord is sent to the Calderon region, where she meets Tavi. The boy had seen enemy scouts, which Amara recognizes are likely part of the larger plot against her Lord. The rest of the story follows them as they both try to warn enough people to mount a defense, and find and report evidence of who is behind the coup attempt.
Their stories take place in a world where almost every person controls furies, elementals that help them serve various roles depending on which element they can control. So people with wind furies can fly and speed up their attacks, earth furies can raise stone walls from the ground and sense where people are walking, and water furies can help people sense emotions and heal wounds. I think the cool part of this idea isn’t exactly what the furies can do, it’s that everyone in the kingdom has access to this power to some degree. Everyone except Tavi. He can’t do something as simple as turning on a lamp, because he has no control of the tiny fire fury inside.
I think it is quite interesting that supposedly this series is the result of a bet that Jim Butcher couldn’t write a good book based on a lame idea. The world-building seemed really fun. I enjoyed the idea of the furies, and the thoughts about what a world where all people had their own elemental familiars would look like. The plot on the other hand, was merely adequate. The foreshadowing of some plot points felt very heavy-handed, and made the later “surprise” reveals not surprising at all. Actually the biggest surprise to me was that they did not reveal Tavi as the lost grandson of the First Lord. A quick glance at the internet tells me this happens in a later book. It feels a bit bad to have something telegraphed so loudly and yet not pay off until a different novel. Still, the characters and the world were engaging, and the story zipped along in a way that kept me engrossed. I read this one start to finish in just two sittings so it must have done something right!
TL;DR: Come for the cool world-building, stay for the action and epic battles.
The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
Rating: 4/5 stars
Verdict: A fast-paced fantasy tale and well worth a read.
Next up: Anathem by Neal Stephenson