Book Review – Furies of Calderon – Codex Alera #1 by Jim Butcher

Furies of CalderonSynopsis (from Goodreads): 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.

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My first impression of this book was that it was a little formulaic. You have a magic system that everyone possesses expect for one person, who is considered a freak for not having that magic. There is a plot to overthrow a ruler and the person who is abnormal becomes embroiled in it.

But, formulas exist for a reason. They work.  Plus, Jim Butcher is an amazing story teller. He may have started off with a formula, but this story quickly took on a life of it’s own, with Butcher’s excellent writing skills.

The magic system in this book (series) is a unique one. People bond with elemental spirits called furies, which then allows them to “craft” in various ways depending on the element of the fury. I’m been an avid reader of fantasy for the majority of my life and I always love the different types of magic that fantasy encompasses.

The world building in this book was somewhat lacking, but I credit that to the story taking place in a valley kind of on the outskirts of the kingdom. We don’t get to see much of the world beyond that valley, so there isn’t much opportunity to expand on the various peoples of this world.

The characters in this book were all very interesting. Indeed, I like almost all of them, even the “bad guys” with the exception of Kord and his son, but I don’t think anyone is actually meant to like those two. Tavi, the main character,  is a fifteen-year-old boy who has no fury and no skills with furycrafting. By most people, he is considered a freak or at least abnormal. What Tavi lacks in fury skills he more than makes up for in other ways. Not only is he clever, but he cares about other people and his willing to put his own life in danger to save others.

Jim Butcher does amazing at descriptions, making the reader feel like they are there in the thick of things. The battle scenes were especially vivid.

This book could have been a stand alone and the reader would be satisfied with the ending. The immediate conflict of the plot is wrapped up, but the author leaves some strings dangling for the sequel to pick up. I have some questions and suspicions that I hope are addressed in book 2.

My rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

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