Review: Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1)

In the previews section of several Dresden Files entries, Jim Butcher includes a personal note about how Lord of the Rings inspired his love of epic fantasy and his epic fantasy series The Codex Alera. Given my feelings about LotR (respect them for their place in the history of fantasy, but don’t love them), I probably should have assumed that this series wouldn’t necessarily be my cup of tea. But given how much I’ve enjoyed Butcher’s Dresden Files series, I was cautiously optimistic that he’d offer something new, different or unique to the epic fantasy genre.

Based on the evidence of Furies of Calderon, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Furies has a solid beginning and interesting ending and then there’s the third of the novel in the middle in which little, if anything happens. It’s the story of Tavi, a boy without magical powers in a world where everyone has some kind of magical tie. It’s the story of politics as various factions plot against the ruler (in this case the Cursor), wanting to overthrow him. It’s the story of an epic threat from the North (apparently in epic fantasy, evil can only come from that geographical direction. One rarely hears of evil from the East threatening civilization as we know it).

If, as Butcher says, this is his tribute to the style of Tolkien, then I guess he got that right. There’s a lot of world-building, description and establishing the magical system for this book and, I assume, the entire series. Unfortunately, the novel covers the same ground over and over again with Butcher repeating critical plot points and character revelations every couple of pages. If a certain character thought one more time about how she thought she knew another better than anyone else and that’s why his betrayal was so shocking, I felt like I was going to scream.

I wanted to like Furies, but I just couldn’t. At times, it’s a slog, but there are just enough glimmers in there of the Butcher I love from the Dresden Files to make me think I may want to pick up the next installment and see if things improve. I had to keep reminding myself that the Dresden Files were good in the first couple of novels but didn’t really kick into that next gear until the third or fourth book. Of course, one thing that helped those novels is that I liked the character of Dresden and his first-person narration. The lack of focus on a single character in this series and the fact that I honestly didn’t love any of these characters may mean I pick up the next installment later rather than sooner.

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