I really shouldn’t start new series before I’ve finished the ones I’m reading. But since the NPR Top 100 titles have not truly disappointed me yet, I couldn’t wait to read more books off this list.
Published: Orbit, 2009 (2004)
Series: Codex Alera #1
My rating: 6,5/10
First sentence: Amara rode atop the swaying back of the towering old gargant bull, going over the plan in her head.
In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood, and metal – fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Tavi’s simple courage will turn the tides of war.
There are a lot of good things to be said about this story. But there is an almost equal amount of problems I had with it. The plot is very generic epic fantasy – including your avarage farm boy becoming the most important person in the kingdom, an impending war, and of course magic – and that was, in my opinion, a shame. But Jim Butcher has some great ideas and managed to shine with gripping writing. This was a book with many, many pages, and they begged to be turned, and turned quickly.
We follow a diverse cast of characters throughout their adventures. Tavi, our farmboy, was merely likable in the beginning but he really grew on my once he was separated from others and had to fight for his own survival. His cool-headedness and compassion make him a perfect protagonist. Amara, the Cursor who is trying to stop the war by unraveling a conspiracy, was initially my favorite character but she didn’t develop all that much, and her budding romance – fantastic though it was to read – was not enough to keep me interested in her story line.
With shifting character perspectives, we follow differend subplots, and not all of these were great. While I could have read about the Marat and their culture for another 500 pages, I really didn’t see much point in aunt Isana’s story, or her prominence in the book for that matter. While the pacing of each story is well done and we are occasionally left with terrible cliffhangers, some of the action scenes felt forced – like action for action’s sake.
What I really enjoyed was the magic system. The people of Alera can control furies of a certain element which helps them not only in everyday life (make a cosy fire at home, for instance) but is also used for healing or manipulation purposes. There is a lot of room for more detail in this world and its magic and I can’t wait to see more of it.
With an almost mediocre rating, you might ask why I seem so eager to continue the series. Because the book is damn well written, the audio narration was very well done, and the ending of this novel gives me an idea of what’s to come. And if I’m correct (and the title of book 2 suggests so), then the second volume will contain one of my biggest buzz words when it comes to books.
If you like epic fantasy, with magic and war, battles and conspiracies, characters to root for, and some thrilling action, then this is for you. Personally, it left me wanting more and made me very curious about Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files.
THE GOOD: Good action scenes, the Marat culture is extremely interesting, and I even liked the tiny bit of romance.
THE BAD: Starts out fairly generic, some characters remain bland (while others shine), and a bit of tightening wouldn’t have hurt.
THE VERDICT: It wasn’t a perfect book but it set up the world of Alera well and, personally, I want more of it. Recommended to people who don’t mind taking a long time diving into an even longer series.
RATING: 6,5/10 Quite good with a lot of potential for more.
The Codex Alera Series: