Book One of the Codex Alera
So, after a year of reading Pern, I am ready to begin a new series! And the fates have given me the Codex Alera, a series of six books about a fictional land, Alera, whose people can harness the elements, called Furies. Everyone is able to work with at least one Fury, and some are able to work with multiples. Different people’s Furies have different strengths, and an individual’s Fury may appear in a specific form and be given a name.
Our story begins with Amara, a young woman who has recently become a Cursor – the elite group who works directly for the ruler of Alera. Amara and her mentor, Fidelias, are attempting to infiltrate a camp of potential rebels against the First Lord, in an attempt to determine who is behind the rebellion.
The next story line is about Tavi, a teenage boy with a terrible curse – he has no Furies. His uncle, Bernard, has a powerful earth Fury named Brutus. Bernard’s sister, Isana, is a strong water-crafter whose Fury is named Rill. But Tavi himself remains Fury-less, putting him at a singular disadvantage in a world where everyone else has the ability to call upon earth, water, fire, wind, wood, or metal.
All in all, this was a very credible beginning to what I hope will be a solid series throughout. The story was completely engaging and the world-building was perfect, with enough information explained (naturally) for Alera to make sense, but without any kind of lengthy lecturing on the whys, wherefores, and hows. The main characters are well-drawn, with Amara, Fidelias, Tavi, Bernard, and Isana portraying individual voices and characters. I enjoyed that there was a range of ages amongst the characters as well, although I will say that I was a bit confused as to Amara’s age. At first she felt quite young, Tavi’s age, but later she came across as a bit older, probably into her 20’s.
The villains are very villainous without being over the top – their actions and motivations felt natural and believable, which made them even scarier. The battle scenes were intense, but not overly violent. These are, however, definitely in the older YA/adult range as there are some conversations that are sexual in nature, as well as an incidence of rape, which, while not graphic, was still disturbing (as it should be!).
I really enjoyed Amara, who is feisty and independent without being obnoxiously so. She is a powerful wind-crafter and a natural leader, intelligent, loyal, tenacious, and a good fighter.
Tavi has lived his entire life with the disadvantage (and embarrassment) of not having a Fury, but he is still quick to learn and very determined. I liked his strong sense of right and wrong, and his willingness to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.
Butcher has created a world where the humans are the citizens of Alera, but Alera itself is surrounded by countries where other creatures, some more human than others, dwell. In this book, Alera is faced with danger from the Marat, a race of more or less giant humans who do not have Furies. However, each tribe has a connection with a specific type of animal with whom they bond, and they are able to communicate with their totem animal.
I really, really liked the plotline that involved Tavi getting mixed up the Marat, and how that all unwound. Without being too spoilery, I’ll just say that some inherent prejudices were eventually overcome, with far-reaching results.
Furies of Calderon did a really good job of setting up things for future books, while still being a complete story in its own right. I felt completely satisfied with the ending, while still being intrigued as to what would happen in the next book. However, I will say that I have some strong suspicions as to the actual origins of Tavi. We will see if they play out!
I’m about halfway through the second book right now. One thing I like is that for both of these books, Butcher has started with a “quote” (his source being a non-existent book supposedly written by Alera’s ruler), with both quotes focusing on how a small, seemingly unimportant event can lead to huge things.
The course of history is determined not by battles, by sieges, or usurpations, but by the actions of the individual. The strongest city, the largest army is, at its most basic level, a collection of individuals. Their decisions, their passions, their foolishness, and their dreams shape the years to come. If there is any lesson to be learned from history, it is that all too often the fate of armies, of cities, of entire realms, rests upon the actions of one person. In that dire moment of uncertainty, that person’s decision, good or bad, right or wrong, big or small, can unwittingly change the world.
In a way, I think that that is the point of the story. Just like that great Dr. Seuss book, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo, many events can be set off by one tiny, insignificant action.
A definite 4/5 start to the series, and I am excited to continue the story.
PS No, this title is not a part of the 20 Books of Summer. However, Book #2 is, so progress is being made on those goals!!