Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher

I have always enjoyed Jim Butcher's work. When I first read Storm Front, I knew that I had something special in my hands, and I have continued to devour his Harry Dresden stories ever since. In 2004, though, Butcher came out with something new. New? Different? Fantasy?! Well, I was unsure about whether this would work or not, but I figured 'How bad could it be, it's Jim Butcher?'

When I opened up Furies of Calderon, I was prepared for the standard, run of the mill, fantasy story told in the vein of J.R.R. Tolkien, with a lone character who can use magic set amidst a mostly mundane populace (much like Harry Dresden himself), but thankfully, that is not what I got. The series started off with great a whole batch of great mysteries, political plots, and vicious infighting, then accelerated through the ensuing books to include wars, aliens, intrigue, assassinations, and so much more. What separates this from books like George R.R. Martin's or Tolkien's is the fact that everyone in this universe uses magic, save the protagonist, Tavi of Calderon, who does not have any Furies to help him.

Great writing, amazingly diverse characters, and a setting that is as much a mystery as the plots that the characters are spinning like master weavers typify these books, and fans of high fantasy and mystery will be duly rewarded for taking the plunge into the world of Alera. What is most intriguing is the evolution of Tavi from Furyless freak to Leader of the Free World. You really need to follow the story to see how amazing the mind of Tavi of Calderon is, and how special the people around him are. From his Aunt Isanna and Uncle Bernard, to his friends among the cursors, to the villainous Fidelias and the scheming First Lord Gaius Sextus, the characters that populate the world of Alera are amazing and complex.

THAC0: 3

Whether you are a fantasy aficionado or a mystery maven, there is more than enough meat on the bones of the Codex Alera series to satisfy even the most distinguished of palates. The style is easy and accessible, with characters that are easily recognizable and distinct without being cartoonish, and the wit and humor that exemplifies the Dresden Files. If you are looking for something a bit to the left of the ordinary fantasy, then I suggest stopping here for a visit.

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