Jim Butcher – Princep’s Fury

I finished the penultimate instalment of the Codex Alera a few days ago. The fact that I didn’t immediately write down my thoughts goes to show that I was quite underwhelmed this time around. Having come this far, I will obviously listen to the last book in the series, but just to put it into perspective: Had this been a standalone novel or the first in a series, I wouldn’t feel the need to read anything else by Butcher. SPOILERS for books 1-4 ahead…

princeps furyPRINCEP’S FURY
by Jim Butcher

Published by: Penguin Audio, 2008
ISBN: 9781101194720
Audiobook: 17 h 46 min
Paperback: 640 pages
Series: Codex Alera #5

My rating: 6/10

First sentence: Raucus had cut his teeth in battle at fourteen years of age.

Tavi of Calderon, now recognized as Princeps Gaius Octavian and heir to the crown, has achieved a fragile alliance with Alera’s oldest foes, the savage Canim. But when Tavi and his legions guide the Canim safely to their lands, his worst fears are realized.The dreaded Vord—the enemy of Aleran and Cane alike—have spent the last three years laying waste to the Canim homeland. And when the Alerans are cut off from their ships, they find themselves with no choice but to fight shoulder to shoulder if they are to survive.For a thousand years, Alera and her furies have withstood every enemy, and survived every foe.The thousand years are over…

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Jim Butcher returns to his well-established characters pretty much where he left them off in Captain’s Fury. Once again, the foe threatening the kingdom of Alera is the Vord, that alien species which seems to adapt to any circumstances and grow more terrifying the more they are defied. Pretty early on, I knew I wouldn’t love this book. Tavi’s storyline takes place entirely out of Alera – first we follow him on a sea voyage drawn out for no good reason and slowing down the plot any time the point of view switched to Tavi. Isana, Amara, Bernard, and Ehren may be up to interesting things of their own – Isana trying to make peace with the Icemen in the north, Amara and Bernard on a dangerous mission for the First Lord, and Ehren just genearlly having his hands in a bit of everything. But the pacing was so off in this volume that I could rarely work up interest in any plotline.

Tavi’s storyline was by far the weakest, although it did have its moments of edge-of-your-seat action (we know Jim Butcher is good at writing those). Amara’s story being the most nuanced in that it is about more than travelling and looking at the Vord destroy everything (althout a fair bit of that, too), still wasn’t up to par. Obviously, this book benefits from me already having enjoyed the volumes that came before, and the author’s laziness in character development was balanced out by my memories of who the characters are. I don’t mind authors who let their readers do part of the work in creating a vibrant world and characters that feel real. But this is not that kind of create-a-world-together, it’s the kind of I-already-told-you-who-Isana-is-now-I-don’t-feel-like-giving-her-depth-anymore. The ladies especially suffered from this laziness. Kitai rarely has anything better to say than that she worries about Tavi, Isana is the strawman peacemaker, willing to sacrifice everything for her country – remember her opinion in the former books? She didn’t seem to give much of a fuck about politics, it was her loved ones and her quiet live she cared about. If the author had show us what had brought about this change, I would have been fine with it. This way it is just inconsistent.

This is not only true of the female characters. Some of the most interesting male side characters also lose all their depth. And I can’t even tell you in favor of what! Because there isn’t enough quick-succession action or complex politics to justify that lack of love for your characters, Mr. Butcher. Altogether, the book seemed like an unnecessary instalment in the series, where the author relied too heavily on the work done in previous books, and offered very little that was new or pushed the actual plot forward.

princeps fury

Having let the book “settle” for almost a week and looking back at its entirety, it just feels like a big mess. Plotstrings, characters, and world-building all seem to me extremely confused. The Canim, for example, have been established as a people who rely on hierarchy and demonstration of power, almost like a pack of wolves (because obviously). Their actions have always seemed consistent within that set of rules so far, but now even they acted out of character, being too trusting or, at times, just plain stupid. The Icemen didn’t even merit being properly introduced as anything other than “those barbarians in the north”. They are humanized to some degree but, let’s face it, they are not really written as people, just another stand-in threat that needs to heroically be resolved.

Needless to say, this was not my favorite book in the series. But Butcher continues to write in a way that is gripping and intriguing, at least when it comes to action. He seriously let his characters drift and unlike the other novels in the series, this one does not offer a proper ending. Some of those random plot-threads are semi-resolved, everything else is still chaos, literally and figuratively. Alera is struggling against an overwhelming enemy and any structure goes down the drain, and I was struggling to keep interested in (fictional) peoples’ lives who didn’t read at all like the characters I had come to know and love.

THE GOOD: Good, thrilling action and fight scenes.
THE BAD: Confused on so many levels: plot threads, character development, politics, and world-building.
THE VERDICT: As a standalone, I would not recommend this. But having almost finished the series, I won’t stop here now. My hope is high that Butcher got back to old form in the last book and delivers a well-plottet story peopled with lovable characters again. Fingers crossed…

RATING: 6/10  – Okay

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The Codex Alera:codex alera series

  1. Furies of Calderon
  2. Academ’s Fury
  3. Cursor’s Fury
  4. Captain’s Fury
  5. Princep’s Fury
  6. First Lord’s Fury

Jim Butcher – Captain’s Fury

Oh, where would I be without my nightly dose of the Codex Alera? With every single book, I find myself more and more surprised at how much the series has grown on me. From mere okay book one to quite good book two to great book three and even greater book four, the trend is going up. So yes, by now this is an absolute recommendation.

captains furyCAPTAIN’S FURY
by Jim Butcher

Published by:
ISBN: 1841497479
Audiobook: 20,5 hours
Paperback: 598 pages
Series: Codex Alera #4

My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: Amara soared down in a slow, gradual descent through cold, heavy rain as she neared the camp of the Crown Legion.

Tavi of Calderon, now captain of his own Legion, has been fighting a bitter war for two years. Then he discovers the invading Canim warriors are harbingers of a far greater threat. The Canim are being hunted in their turn by a savage race that forced them from their homeland – and which has pursued them to the Aleran borders. With options fast running out, Tavi proposes an alliance with the Canim. But the Senate’s new military commander wishes only to wipe out the Canim ‘scourge’, and would also kill Aleran slaves that have sought freedom with these aggressors. Tavi must reconcile Aleran and Canim, slavemaster and slave, Citizen and Proletarian, if an alliance is to be forced. And he must lead his Legion in defiance of the law, against both friend and enemy – before the greatest army of all launches its assault.

dividerAh, Jim Butcher, how cleverly you have stolen my heart. That a story that came from “combine Pokemon with a lost Roman legion” would turn out to be this awesome is still baffling to me. While I took breaks between the first few books in the series, after Cursor’s Fury I didn’t wait at all to dive into the next Codex Alera adventure. And the trend of these books getting better and better continues.

The author first brings us up to date about what has happened in the two years since we last saw the characters. He sets up where each of them is, with Tavi being Captain of the First Legion, Amara still doing Cursor work, Isana dealing with the secret that is no longer only hers, and the war between the Canim and Alera nowhere near the end. As I said in my review of the last book, I seem to love military fiction (I had no idea) which made this – again – the best book in the series so far. Because Tavi is now leading a Legion, we get a lot of military life. Ranging from big strategic decision-making to the everyday troubles of the soldiers, to Tavi’s trouble dealing with his new commander – everything is in here. And it is damn fun to read.

What I have come to love about these books is that our characters usually come up with very good plans, they get somewhat close to putting them into action, and then Everything Goes To Shit. These moments are heart-stopping and drove me almost crazy. How on earth are they going to get out of there? I decided to put my faith into the author and his wonderful characters, they will come up with something, right? Right. This time, though, the threats are more numerous and coming from all sides. The political situation in Alera is a bubblign cauldron of trouble, Amara and Bernard travel areas of the realm that are inhabited by terrifying creatures, and of course there’s this war going on, where humans and Canim engage in daily mutual slaughter. Jim Butcher does get better with every book. The action sequences – detrimental as they are to my sleep – were what I was looking forward to the most.

captains fury

That is not to say that the quieter moments are boring. By now, the world and its magic are so well established that the author gets to play with it. Some things that happened in the very first book tie in nicely into the larger plot of the entire series. It is amazing how Butcher keeps his characters and plot consistent but still offers us new interesting morsels with every story. His characters develop in a believable way and some of my least favorite characters from the first book are now closest to my heart. Others show different sides of their personality, giving them more depth and creating a sense of being real. Real humans sometimes change their mind on big things, their beliefs are shattered, their entire world goes upside down – in fiction, we usually find this kind of 180 degree turn to be not credible. But Jim Butcher pulls it off.

I couldn’t pick my favorite parts of Captain’s Fury. I loved Tavi’s cleverness, be it when he devised a plan to do very illegal things for a very good reason, or his talks with the Canim about politics and warfare. The Canim deserve a bonus point because, being an alien species, their culture was even more intriguing to read than that of the Marat – although Kitai is still one of my favorite characters and doesn’t cease to amuse me whenever she jibes at Tavi. Showing us the Canim the way he does, the author allows us to see that in a war, there are no bad guys. It is full of people who just want to survive, who have their own hopes and dreams.

The end of this volume leads me to believe that some large changes are about to hit Alera, politically. But it also sets up the beginning for the next book nicely which already got its hooks in me, without even having started reading. That’s how well Jim Butcher writes. I only started reading this series because it’s on NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books list – and I’m incredibly happy I did. Because tonight, at bedtime, I will jump 2 years into Alera’s future and see what my old friends have been up to.

THE GOOD: Great characters, some of the best action scenes I have ever read, great political and military aspects, set in a world that grows more interesting with every book.
THE BAD: The one big secret that is revealed in this volume was partly predictable, but tied nicely into the larger story.
THE VERDICT: A series that comes more highly recommended with every volume I read. There is something for everyone. Personally, I am really taken with the military and politics but there is almost always some romance, great action, and of course magic.

RATING: 8,5/10  More than excellent

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The Codex Alera:codex alera series

  1. Furies of Calderon
  2. Academ’s Fury
  3. Cursor’s Fury
  4. Captain’s Fury
  5. Princep’s Fury
  6. First Lord’s Fury

Review: Jim Butcher – Cursor’s Fury

These books are really growing on my. So far, every one has been better than the last and if this trend continues, Jim Butcher has a new fan in me. I particularly liked the military aspect of this third volume. Alera feels like a second home by now and I can’t imagine going to sleep without these audiobooks.

Jim Butcher - Cursor's FuryCURSOR’S FURY
by Jim Butcher

Published by: Penguin Audio, 2009 (2006)
Narrated by: Kate Reading
ISBN: 1841497460
Audiobook: 20,5 hours (614 pages)
Series: Codex Alera #3

My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Tavi made a steeple of his fingers and stared down at the ludus board.

The power-hungry High Lord of Kalare has launched a rebellion against the aging First Lord, Gaius Sextus, who with the loyal forces of Alera must fight beside the unlikeliest of allies – the equally contentious High Lord of Aquitaine.
Meanwhile, young Tavi of Calderon joins a newly formed legion under an assumed name even as the ruthless Kalare unites with the Canim, bestial enemies of the realm whose vast numbers spell certain doom for Alera. When treachery from within destroys the army’s command structure, Tavi finds himself leading an inexperienced, poorly equipped legion-the only force standing between the Canim horde and the war-torn realm.

dividerIn Alera, all people except Tavi, use furycraft. They control the elements with magic, use them for everyday life, warfare, healing and building. Two years after the events of Academ’s Fury, Tavi still hasn’t come into his furies and as the only Aleran faces the world without any magic whatsoever. Now the first Lord sends him to the legions, to discover a new aspect of Alera and its workings. I was particularly pleased that this meant a reunion with Max, one of my favorite characters from the last book,  as well as a certain Marat girl who has been kicking copious amounts of ass.

cursor's furyI can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason I really go for military fiction. Any fiction where the protagonist is thrown into a hierarchical structure and can work his or her way up the career ladder fascinates me. Be it a boarding school with tests and classes, a military science fiction novel, or a fantasy legion as seen here – I am in love. The dynamics of the leading men of the first legion are wonderfully portrayed while still leaving enough time for strategy and clever tricks to play on the enemy. I became so intrigued with Tavi’s storyline that I didn’t want to return to the other characters to see what they were up to.

As far as the plot goes, there is yet another conspiracy and a new threat to the kingdom of Alera. If this sounds repetitive, don’t let me deceive you. At its heart, it may be a simple enough plot, but it is the execution that makes Cursor’s Fury an excellent book. It is, so far, my favorite of the series, not only because of the military aspects I’ve mentioned above, but also because I felt the world-building went to another level. I learned more about furycrafting and its rules, Alera’s politics and the factions opposing each other, I finally learned something about Isana’s past that I sort of expected but didn’t expect to be involved with Isana. If that makes sense.

There are brilliant action scenes. By now, I’ve come to expect them from Jim Butcher. While the fights, flights, and spying scenes have always been great in these books, I see a clear learning curve. The author gets better with each book – and what more can you ask for, really? The fact that he still has me invested in Tavi’s life after three books and him being pretty much grown up speaks for itself. I don’t even care what the next big invasion will be, or whether the stars will threaten to fall on Alera. As long as Tavi, Amara, Kitai, and Bernhard are involved, I’ll be happy to follow them around. Plus, a whole range of side characters I’ve come to care for and some of whom have turned out to be a lot more than they seemed at first glance. There is so much to discover in these books. About the country, the politics, and each living person’s life. I can’t wait for the next volume.

THE GOOD: A fast-paced, thrilling plot, great action scenes, well-loved characters, brilliant military fantasy.
THE BAD: Amara and Isana’s storyline paled somewhat in comparison to Tavi’s.
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended series that gets better with every book. I wasn’t sure about the Codex Alera at first but Jim Butcher has found another fan.

RATING: 8/10 – Excellent

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The Codex Alera:codex alera series

  1. Furies of Calderon
  2. Academ’s Fury
  3. Cursor’s Fury
  4. Captain’s Fury
  5. Princep’s Fury
  6. First Lord’s Fury

Review: Jim Butcher – Academ’s Fury

Seeing how much I have enjoyed listening to the Codex Alera audiobooks so far, I think I will continue what is by now almost a tradition. I listen to it a bit evey night before going to sleep. Let me tell you, when an action scene comes up, it’s very detrimental to my sleep…

academs fury

ACADEM’S FURY
by Jim Butcher

Published by: Orbit, 2009 (2005)
ISBN: 0143143778
Audiobook: 20 hrs
Paperback: 628 pages
Series: Codex Alera #2

My rating: 7/10

First sentence:  If the beginning of wisdom is in realizing that one knows nothing, then the beginning of understanding is in realizing that all things exist in accord with a single truth: Large things are made of smaller things.

For one 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, the unity of the Alerans hangs in precarious balance. The First Lord of Alera has fallen in his efforts to protect his people from the vicious attacks of their enemies. Now, the fate of the Alerans lies in the hands of Tavi, a young man who must use all of his courage and resourcefulness to save his people–and himself.

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It’s been two years since the events of Furies of Calderon. Tavi is now training to be a Cursor at the Academy in Alera Imperia, Isana is the first female steadholder, Bernard has been promoted to Count, and for Amara it’s mostly business as usual – with a little extra time spent with Bernard. Tavi’s day-to-day life is mostly stressful, what with studying and doing work for the First Lord – and let’s not forget bullies. Still without any fury crafiting whatsoever, Tavi is an easy target. But he has new friends to stand by him and help him once chaos ensues.

The first thing I noticed about this second instalment in the Codex Alera was that I enjoyed reading about Tavi more than any of the other characters. He has grown as a person and now he’s right at the center of the political intrigue. Amara and Bernhard spend a lot of time fighting the invading vord – an alien species whose attacking strategy chilled me to the bones. While I still found their storyline interesting, the military battles never quite caught my interest as much as the more personal battles Tavi and his friends have to face. But let’s be honest – Jim Butcher is great with action scenes. I found myself holding my breath on more than one occasion, hoping our heroes would be alright.

academs furyMy hopes from book one came true as well. We do learn more about the Marat and their culture, and I’m happy to report that we experience a reunion with Doroga and Kitai – what a badass! I loved how Jim Butcher managed to tell a new, and essentially standalone, story while keeping some connections to the prior book. Politics still exist and with the First Lord starting to show his age they are more important than ever. However, this time I didn’t really find myself caring all too much about who succeeds Gaius Sextus as First Lord. There was too little explanation of the Dianic League (some feminist movement, from what I gathered) and the relationships between the powerful houses of the realm.

These little negative points do not keep Academ’s Fury from being a fast-paced and thrilling read, and while I don’t really bite my fingernails hoping for this character to achieve one thing and that character to rot in hell, I enjoy finding out what happens to them. One thing that did hook me was the ending. We get a glimpse of what’s to come for Tavi – even though I find myself wondering what new threat is going to show up in Alera and whether we’ll follow the same structure as we did in the first two books. Either way, I’m in.

THE GOOD: Thrilling fight scenes, more Marat culture and some new and very interesting species (the vord, the Canim).
THE BAD: The worldbuilding still seems a bit half-hearted to me.
THE VERDICT: A fun read following Tavi and the rest of them, along with some new great characters. One little boy can indeed save the realm… twice.

RATING: 7/10 Very good

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The Codex Alera Series:codex alera 2

  1. Furies of Calderon
  2. Academ’s Fury
  3. Cursor’s Fury
  4. Captain’s Fury
  5. Princep’s Fury
  6. First Lord’s Fury