Friday, July 17, 2009

“Furies of Calderon” & “Academ’s Fury”, by Jim Butcher (Orbit)


The first two exciting installments of Jim Butcher’s other series, The Codex Alera

For a thousand years, the peoples of Alera have been united by their unique bond with the furies: elementals of earth, air, fire, water and metal. At fifteen, Tavi has no furycrafting. As the Alerans’ most savage enemy, the Marat, return to the Calderon Valley, Tavi’s weakness seems more problematic than ever. Amara is a spy seeking intelligence on traitors to the Crown, but when the Valley erupts into chaos, she will find Tavi’s talents invaluable. Together, can they turn the tides of war?ACADEMSfury.indd

The sequel, Academ’s Fury, catches up with Tavi. He is trying to maintain the illusion of being an ordinary Academy student, while secretly training to be one of the First Lord’s spies. Yet he still has no power to manipulate the elements. Civil war is brewing, and Tavi must play a dangerous game as he is caught in the middle of the various factions.

I have to admit that my heart sank a little when I read the first few pages of Furies of Calderon. Words like “gargant” and “patriserus” sounded ominously like a stereotypical fantasy written by a spotty teenager in his bedroom – I was almost expecting words filled with apostrophes to appear at any moment. I loved the Dresden Files, Jim Butcher’s better-known and more popular series, and was prepared to be bitterly disappointed by his more ‘traditional’ fantasy series. Happily, I was proved very wrong.

While Furies of Calderon takes a few pages to set things up and get going, it quickly becomes gripping. The book races along, the author’s prose bringing the world vividly to life and introducing a wide cast of believable and complex characters. There is bearlike Bernard, Tavi’s uncle; powerful Isana, idealistic spy Amara; the complicated Fidelias; and Tavi himself, who has no idea of the important role he will play as the story unfolds. Without an heir, Gaius, the First Lord of Alera, struggles to hold the land together against those who would seek to usurp him or conquer his land. When the Marat tribe appears and Tavi finds himself in the middle of the conflict, he believes his lack of furycrafting (the ability to manipulate the elements) may be his undoing. Yet the qualities Tavi has despite, or perhaps because of, his lack of power mean that he is uniquely placed to change the course of events.

Dropping in and out of different characters’ viewpoints as well as seeing the action through Tavi’s eyes works well, and once the story has begun to unfold, Butcher doesn’t let his readers go. I found myself picking up the next in the series as soon as I’d finished the first.

Academ’s Fury follows Tavi and the mysterious slave Fade to the Academy, where Tavi is completing his education. Lauded for his actions in helping to save the land from a Marat horde, Tavi has earned the patronage of the First Lord himself. Yet his lack of powers marks him out, and when Tavi discovers treachery that threatens the First Lord’s rule, it seems that the forces massed against him are too great. This second book follows the characters from the first, developing them and introducing new ones. Butcher deftly charts Tavi’s progress as he matures, and explores the relationships between the other characters.

The themes of acceptance, family, duty, responsibility and loyalty are deepened, and the author shows the effect on the characters with a sensitive touch; in particular the relationships between Amara and Bernard, Isana and Tavi, and Tavi and Kitai. In addition, characters who in the first book had appeared to be straightforward turn out to be more ambiguous. In Butcher’s novels, no one is a classic villain. People are motivated by complex reasons that are never easily divided into ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but occupy that ever-difficult grey region in between. The plot is much darker and promises to become more so as Tavi grows up. Again, it was impossible to put this novel down.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes gripping fantasy, I can’t wait to get hold of the next one.

Reviewed by Emma

Series Chronology: Furies of Calderon, Academ’s Fury, Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s Fury, Princep’s Fury, First Lord’s Fury (Nov.2009)

For Fans Of: Scott Lynch, Terry Pratchett, Alan Campbell

1 comment:

  1. I'm about 3/4's of the way through "Princep's Fury", and I have to say, I really like this series.

    My wife and I eagerly read through "The Dresden Files" series (the last two books on our Kindles), and I figured that for $6.99, I could give this series a try. Well, I have to say, Mr. Butcher did a marvelous job on this, and I can't wait for the next installment near the end of this year.