Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
“For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal. But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir. Ambitious High Lords plot and maneuver to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon.” “Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.” Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave named Amara. But she is actually a spy for Gaius Sextus, sent to the Valley to gather intelligence on traitors to the Crown, who may be in league with the barbaric Marat horde. And when the Valley erupts in chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Amara will find Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness to be a power greater than any fury – one that could turn the tides of war.”
Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher is the first in a series of six books that feature our protagonist Tavi as he comes into his own and grows from a sheepherder boy into powerful man. Jim Butcher’s writing shines once again and once you start the series you will be hard pressed to put it down until you turn the final page on the sixth installment.
Butcher does an unbelievable job in his characters, no different than his Dresden Files series, offering us an entire cast of fleshed out and likable characters. Like any good writer knows, the key to creating a believable world and characters is to give them back-story, a life before the events we’re reading about. And as you read you’ll be surprised at the level of depth each character shows and the many secrets each has buried in their past.
Another excellent point needs to be drawn to Butcher’s keen worldbuilding in this series. Rumor has it that he wrote this series after taking a bet from someone who claimed he couldn’t write a good story from a bad idea. He countered that he could do it with two, and so was prompted with “Lost Roman Legion” and “Pokemon,” the result being the Codex Alera.
Whether or not this is true is up in the air, I’ve heard it told both ways, but regardless, the world of Carna, and particularly Alera is filled with the small details that show the care and consideration Jim Butcher had when crafting this story. The vast majority of our time is spent in the Calderon Valley, in the wilderness, at the Steadholdt’s many families live, and at the nearby fort at Garriston. In each locale we are presented with a landscape that seems realistic enough to be a place we could all visit. Even the furies, elemental spirits that give every Aleran control over a particular force of nature, is handled in such a manner that doesn’t seem ridiculous and childish.
The Marat, the main threat faced in the first book, are a brilliantly fascinating read. From their psuedo-Native American culture and lifestyle, we are able to glimpse at a race of beings that differ from the standard humans and fantasy races just enough to make them comfortable yet intriguing.
Dresden Files is written in the style of a thriller; short, fast chapters that end with a cliffhanger that makes you want to turn the page and say “Just one more chapter.” Furies of Calderon is no different. With each chapter came a new revelation or engaging scene that made want to continue on in order to find out what happens next. You’ll have to put limitations on your reading unless you’re prepared to spend an entire day getting nothing done but delving into a book.
Codex Alera is a strong contender for my top 3 all time favorite series. There was so much that went right in this book that it’s hard to pick out anything to complain about. Jim Butcher didn’t release this series until well into his career with the Dresden Files and as such had already found his stride in great characterization, plotting, and writing. If you admired his writing in urban fantasy and wanted a taste of more classic fantasy with swords and pre-industrial technology then make sure you give Codex Alera, starting with Furies of Calderon a try.