Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
Digital Audiobook narrated by Kate Reading
Published by Ace on June 28, 2005
Series: Codex Alera #1
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, High Fantasy
Length: 504 pages or 19 hours, 58 minutes
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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.
I almost skipped this on my TBR, because I just read a Jim Butcher book, and I felt pretty meh about it.
That would have been a mistake.
I was immediately drawn in by Furies of Calderon. The world is really interesting, and I liked the furies in the magical system. The stories started off with a lot of promise, and I had high hopes once I started to get into the book.
Unfortunately, once the warm fuzzy feeling wore off, things went downhill.
Even though the worldbuilding on this one shows what Jim Butcher is capable of, the characters don’t hold up very well. Furies of Calderon is told in three different perspectives: Amara, Isana, and Tavi. For a while, I really though the whole thing was going to be great – Amara and Tavi paired up and could have bee this adorable badass world-saving duo. Isana ended up trapped with enemy caster Odiana and they were an interesting duo as well. I had hopes, I really did.
The real problem became boredom. I was bored. Isana was predictable. Amara was unqualified to be doing the things she was doing, and very contradictory. The Roman inspiration in Amara’s storyline was cool, and I continued to like the furies in Isana’s, but otherwise, I struggled to pay attention.
But then there was Tavi.
Tavi’s storyline was great.
As we follow Tavi, we get an adventure-within-an-adventure. There’s a whole new race of people (the Marat) whose culture we get to learn about that is different from our own, and there is a magical creepy place with monsters. And there’s Kitai, who I really liked and thought was funny (but bratty… though honestly she’s just a kid). I really liked Tavi’s story and found myself getting frustrated when I was switched out of his and into Amara’s.
I do think that the writing and worldbuilding is strong here, and the plot kept confusing me by getting a little sidetracked here and there, so I think that the rest of the series definitely has some interesting things to offer. It’s not black and white – good verses evil. It’s more complicated than that, which is great in adult fantasy. The stuff I didn’t like about Furies of Calderon was largely related to me not clicking with certain characters. I am curious about the story, and about Tavi/Kitai, so I will be reading more.
As a side note, there’s a lot of criticism about how Codex Alera isn’t The Dresden Files? I’ve only read the first book of each, and generally I agree. But honestly? It shouldn’t be. I applaud Jim Butcher for drawing that line between two separate series and letting each one stand strong on its own.