Author: Jim Butcher
What do you get when you mix the lost Roman Legion and Pokemon? Apparently you get the Codex Alera. And “it is awesome” says Greg. These books get negatively compared to Dresden Files a lot simply because they are written by the same author. That’s not really fair though because they are completely different styles of fantasy. Dresden Files is urban fantasy where this is more epic fantasy, more sword and sorcery style. Just keep that in mind before you dive into it, because if more “stereotypical” fantasy isn’t your thing, yeah you probably won’t like it.
All that said….
Probably the most memorable part of Furies of Calderon is that Tavi has no magic while literally everyone else in the world that he lives in does. I find this very impressive for two reasons.
First, think of the challenge this posed to Jim Butcher as a writer. In so many fantasy novels, the main character learns about magic from some wizard-ish type character and so the reader learns about magic through an exposition chapter or two; the reader learns along with the character. But Tavi already knows about magic because every other human has their own furies (basically elemental spirits that sort of bond with a human granting them power over that element) so there was never any explanation for the reader to read through to get what was going on. Still, Butcher managed to make a unique type of magic system understandable to the reader. That speaks volumes to me as to his talent as a writer.
Secondly, I like the challenge that it posed Tavi. Everyone else has him at a disadvantage so he has to learn to out-think his way out of situations rather than relying on the magic everyone else relies on to get himself out of sticky situations and he does so brilliantly.
You also can’t accuse Butcher of not being able to create three-dimensional characters. With the exception of a few -cough-Kord-cough- everyone has their own motives. I could rave about how much I like Tavi all day long. Many of the other characters have things going on that I am interested to find out where it will go. But it’s easy to make good guys likeable. Butcher again shows his skill in making bad guys, again with the exception of Kord, likeable.
Don’t get me wrong. Kord’s character definitely serves a place in the story. It’s just that where so many other characters have motives and is multi-dimensional (or at least there is a good reason that they do what they do), Kord is nothing more than a bully and that is not explored other than Isana telling him he does what he does because he is small and needs to show how awesome he is by hurting those weaker than him. Other antagonists get much more character exploration. It is completely understandable why Fidelius does what he does and you can’t even really call his reasons wrong. Aldrick seems like just another hired sword but it’s hard to not like a guy that wants to drop everything to go heroically save his lady-love (even if she is bat-shit crazy). Lord and Lady Aquitaine were not as thoroughly explored but the story left off in a place that you know there will be more of them in future books.
There is a lot that I hope we get to see more of in the next books. It is pretty obvious (mostly because it is part of Fantasy Trope 101) that Tavi is going to end up being royalty but I do want to see how all that unfolds. I want to know more about Fade and who he is.
I have always been a big fan of large series of books, and Furies of Cauldron is a huge bang out of the gate for a what promises to be a fantastic series. Tavi is great, and I love that in the world of furies he is the weird one. The only downside to I can think of is Amara and Bernard’s story is fine but it is not as interesting as everything else going on. Both are great characters, I just care more about what Tavi is going through. Overall, if it isn’t obvious enough, I love this book, and fully recommend it. I am so excited for the rest of the series and can’t wait to dive into them.