Furies of Calderon is the first book in Jim Butcher’s high fantasy series,Codex Alera. My previous review of Storm Front from The Dresden Files already indicated how much I enjoy Jim Butcher’s writing. Even though The Dresden Files is unquestionably more popular than Codex Alera, I actually prefer the latter.
The magic system in Furies of Calderon is one of the series’ greatest strengths. The “furies” are essentially elemental animals that every person in Alera is connected to by birth. This connection between the Alerans and their furies allows them to manipulate the element that they are most predisposed to in very compelling ways. While most individuals only are blessed with one fury, it is possible for some to command two separate elemental creatures.
Therefore, it is all the more shocking to learn that the protagonist of the series, Tavi, lacks any furies at all. Tavi is a sort of outcast because of his inability to manifest a fury, but he is living a quiet life with his aunt and uncle (Isana and Bernard) in a small village called a steadholt. However, a search for a lost sheep quickly plunges Tavi and Bernard into an unexpected battle that sets an entire series of events into motion that will completely change their lives before the tale is done.
Unlike The Dresden Files, Furies of Calderon jumps to different characters in different chapters, so the point of view is not always squarely focused on Tavi. Amara, a young woman who is in training to become a Cursori (a type of elite agent) in service of the Aleran Empire, begins her story trapped in an enemy camp after suffering betrayal at the hands of her mentor, Fidelias. Indeed, a whole host of compelling characters populates the world of Alera who are capable of capturing the reader’s sympathies and attentions even when Tavi or Amara are not featured in a particular chapter.
One of the major reasons that I prefer this series to The Dresden Files is the fact that Alera is set in a Roman style country. The emperor of the Aleran Empire, Gaius Sextus, and the entire government of Alera are based on the Roman Empire. The resulting setting is wonderfully unique, as the vast majority (read ninety-nine percent) of high fantasy is set in a medieval world. The different races in Codex Alera, such as the humanoid warriors known as the Marat who feature prominently in Furies of Calderon, are some of Jim Butcher’s best creative work.
The entire Codex Alera series spans six books and is currently a complete series. Jim Butcher has hinted that he might return to Alera at some point in the future, and I sincerely hope that he does. Codex Alera deserves to be read every bit as much as The Dresden Files, and it drives me crazy that the series does not garner more notoriety. Help me remedy this situation by buying a copy of The Furies of Calderon and experiencing Tavi’s epic adventure!