Tuesday, May 04, 2010

“Princep’s Fury” & “First Lord’s Fury”, by Jim Butcher (Orbit)

Butcher-PrincepsFury The final two instalments of Butcher’s magisterial Codex Alera

Tavi of Calderon has managed to forge an alliance with Alera’s oldest foes, the savage Canim, and he must escort them on their long sea-voyage home. This will strain their fragile accord – but the worst is yet to come.

The inhuman Vord have spent the last three years laying waste to the Canim homeland, making it a desolate place indeed. Then the Alerans become stranded there, cut off from their ships. The Canim alliance will be tested as they enter the killing fields together, depending on each other’s strengths if they are both to survive.

For a thousand years, Alera and her furies have withstood every enemy, and survived every foe. The thousand years are over.

Book five in the series, and I continue to find the Codex Alera absolutely gripping. The novel is tightly plotted, fast paced, and the characters within are fully realised.

Butcher has the rare skill of bringing his fantasy world vividly to life without resorting to turgid chunks of exposition or tired clichés. His characters are believable and engaging. For example, Tavi grows over the course of the series from a shepherd boy with no ‘furycraft’ into a powerful leader and heir to the country of Alera. The relationships between Tavi and Kitai, Isana and Araris and Bernard and Amara are also well drawn and believable. The Vord develop from a serious threat to a complex and deadly enemy, while the Canim become uneasy allies.

First Lord’s Fury


The aging First Lord of Alera has fallen in battle. Yet his people must continue to resist an invading inhuman army. Desperate Alerans even pledge fealty to the Vord Queen to survive, turning the incredible power of Aleran furies back on their own people. And despite all efforts, the Alerans are being ground into dust and pushed to the farthest reaches of their own realm.

However, Tavi has returned with vital insights from the Canim Blood Lands. He knows how to counter the Vord and, more importantly, believes human ingenuity can equal fury-born powers. Now events are rushing towards a last stand, where Tavi and the last Aleran legions must formulate a dangerous new strategy, together. For a civilisation is on the brink of extinction.

First Lord’s Fury picks up immediately after Princep’s Fury ends, and exhibits the same pacing and plotting strengths of its predecessors.

Over the course of the series, the reader develops ideas of what each faction or ‘enemy’ is, only for Butcher to turn this onto its head in the next volume as he adds layers of complexity, as well as further delving into their cultures and personalities. There’s no such thing as ‘a barbarian’, rather just the perceptions of those under assault by outsiders who are different to themselves. Even the Vord become more complex. For the author, no one is ever just ‘evil’ or ‘good’, rather the world is an endless sea of greys. Equally, with each book, the magic system in this world develops and becomes more complex.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the characters work out the connection between the humans and the Vord slightly too long after the reader does – it felt a little contrived that neither Tavi nor Isana picked up the fairly big hints that were dropped until well after they might have done. This is not, however, too big an issue.

It is difficult to visualise each book as a standalone, as there is such good continuity and flow from one volume to the next, making the Codex Alera effectively one of the best, longest novels you will probably read. First Lord’s Fury provides a satisfying, exciting ending to this great series.

Utterly engrossing, this series is an exceptional feat of fantasy writing. It has some of the feel one might get from reading The Lord Of The Rings, so great is the scope and imagination that Butcher has poured into the novels.

Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Emma Newrick

No comments:

Post a Comment