Adult Book Reviews · Book Reviews 2014 · Fantasy Books

‘Furies of Calderon’ by Jim Butcher

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. But their world is changing.

5 Stars

This book came to my attention very highly-recommended, so I was desperate to enjoy it. I love high fantasy, although it can often take me an absolute age to get through them. My experience of it started off in this manner, as I read 12 pages and then got distracted by a combination of studying and shorter books. I returned my full attention to this book on Monday, and I have to say that once I got started properly, I fell in love with it.

‘Furies of Calderon’ is book one of six in Jim Butcher’s ‘Codex Alera’ series. This worried me a bit – normally in long fantasy series such as this, the first book can be a bit tedious: sparse action or sense of movement and compiled mainly of world-building with limited plot. I think that this book completely defied that mould. There was the perfect blend of action and characterisation, with the right amount of world-building, and still gave a sense that the story had progressed adequately. The plot was easy to follow, there was not too much or too little for the quantity of pages, and I very rarely got bored as there was never too much of a pause between segments.

Butcher’s writing is very good. I was a tad worried that this book would be difficult to get into, as I feel like it is hit-and-miss with fantasy as to whether I can get completely into it. Part of the reason I found it so easy to get through the 600 pages is because the writing is so… readable. There is no overcomplicating, waffling or extensive descriptions. The pace is quick, but not confusing, and the five points of view (Amara, Tavi, Bernard, Isana and Fidelias) are easily manageable, and we never spend too long with one particular character or idea. Towards the end, when the war truly begins, there is a lot more action and fight scenes, which were thoroughly enjoyable rather than being repetitive.

The five main characters were all very strong. The first person we see, in the prologue, is Tavi, a fifteen-year-old boy who has not developed ‘furies’ – magical powers that every resident of Alera has – and is therefore often undermined and overlooked. The first thing that hit me is that, while Tavi starts the story slighly whiny about this difference, he overcomes it to become a strong and brave individual. I loved his interactions with Fade and Kitai, and the friendship he had established with Amara at the end was great. Amara is the next main character. I do have to say that I was initially very confused about her age. Starting the book, I just automatically placed her at about eighteen or nineteen in my head. I believe now that she was intended to be in her twenties, but this slight fact did leave me a bit muddled. Anyway, I did definitely like Amara as a character. She did not complain, she fought with admirable morals and yet she did actually have feelings under the superhero façade, which made her a very well-rounded person. Bernard was possibly my favourite character. I loved his bond with his nephew Tavi and his sister Isana; They interacted well as a family unit, which boosted my like for all three of them. Bernard, as with Amara, proved to be a multi-layered character; good-hearted but reveals his temper, brave but admits fear, strong but exposes weaknesses. It sound simple, but I often find that characters such as Bernard – very important but not the centre of attention such as Tavi and Amara – will be lacking important aspects of a strong character. Bernard’s backstory interests me a lot, and so I hope that we see more of that in the next few books. Fidelias was also a well-written character. He is the kind of character who, written even slightly wrong, can be easily misinterpreted by the reader, but Butcher manages to make me feel a wide range of emotions towards the character and his decisions, where many authors in similar situations have fallen short. My least favourite of the main five characters was Tavi’s aunt Isana. As with all of the others, her characterisation was great, and the plot involving her was very good, but sometimes I felt like she was isolated from everything going on around her – to me, she didn’t feel like a natural fit into the main story. Not to say that she wasn’t necessary, but it just didn’t work for me. Saying that, I firmly believe that Butcher’s characters, even the less important ones such as Fade, Kitai and Doroga were great.

The ending of the book worked perfectly for me – it rounded off all of the events of this book, with no cliffhanger as such for the next one, but there are still open-ended threads ready to be expanded on in the next instalment. The end even made me slightly teary-eyed, as I thought that it was very apt; I truly loved the last little paragraph.

Overall, I am very glad that I picked this one up again after a long break. It was exciting and beautifully written with a plethora of characters who I would have no problem following for another five books. I am soon going to be ordering book two, ‘Academ’s Fury’, and hopefully I will not need to wait a month to get fully into that one. I’m excited to continue on.

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