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.
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.
Ah, 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.
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
The Codex Alera: