Sunday, September 06, 2009

“Cursor’s Fury” & “Captain’s Fury”, by Jim Butcher (Orbit)


A new command for Tavi; and a growing threat comes to Alera

Alera is a perilous world, where the forces of nature can take physical form. But even magic can’t halt the corruption spreading across the land.

Cursor’s Fury follows Tavi as he joins the First Lord of Alera’s elite spies. The Crown is facing rebellion by the ruthless High Lord of Kalare, which could destroy Alera’s delicate power-balance.

Tavi is ordered to a lonely post with an inexperienced legion, far removed from the fighting, when Kalare does the unthinkable by uniting with the savage Canim, Alera’s oldest enemies. When an brutal act of treason decimates the army’s command structure, Tavi finds himself leading the legion against the Canim horde, outmaneuvering them at any costs.

Untitled-1 Captain’s Fury, the fourth book in the series, jumps forward in time, and catches up with Tavi after he has been leading the Legion for about two years. He has discovered that the Canim invaders are harbingers of a much greater threat; they are not merely belligerent invaders, but are in fact fleeing a savage race that has forced them from their homeland. In the face of this knowledge, Tavi proposes a radical solution: Alera must join forces with the Canim in an alliance against the greater threat. Unfortunately, the Senate’s new military commander, Arnos, is single-mindedly determined to eradicate the Canim and any Aleran slaves allied with them.

The task of reconciling the various factions – Aleran and Canim, slavemaster and slave, Citizen and Proletarian – is left to Tavi. If there is to be any hope for Alera and its citizens, he must lead his Legion in defiance of the Law, forging his own path.

Butcher’s lesser-known series (after the Dresden Files) continues in very fine style, easily maintaining the pace and power of the first two books. In Tavi, he has created a character as appealing as Harry Dresden, with a gift for wisecracks and the complexity that comes from having a flaw: in Tavi’s case, his lack of furies (the ability to manipulate the elements by means of an attendant spirit), as well as a shadowy past. Tavi has matured significantly since the first two volumes – he may not have what passes for magic in Alera, but he is quick, clever and has developed qualities that make him just as dangerous as any furycrafter, as well as a gifted leader for his newly acquired legion.

The author handles a complex plot and a large cast of well-rounded characters with confidence and aplomb. His characters mature over time: especially Tavi (as mentioned above), but also his relationships with Kitai (Tavi’s partner) and Isana (Tavi’s aunt), and the relationship between the Cursor Amara and Tavi’s uncle, Bernard. The plot is full of twists, as Tavi finally discovers who he really is, and I especially liked the development of the character of the mysterious slave Fade, and that of the traitor Fidelias, both of whom are not what they seem.

Given the complexity and scope of the novels, and the Codex as a whole, it is difficult to go into much more depth without spoiling many of the twists and turns Butcher has woven into the story. The plot is fast-paced, filled with realistic action and witty dialogue, and it never felt like the pace flagged.

Overall, these two books are an excellent continuation of the Codex Alera, and I can’t wait for the next installment, Princep’s Fury.

Reviewed by Emma

Series Chronology: Furies of Calderon, Academ’s Fury, Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s Fury, Princep’s Fury (UK release: December 3rd 2009), First Lord’s Fury (UK release: May 6th 2010)

For Fans of: The Dresden Files, Garth Nix

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