Set in a fantasy world of Jim Butcher's making, the Codex Alera encompasses a tumultuous period in the nation's history. The people of Alera have unique bonds with the elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood and metal and are able to manipulate the elementals in objects and in their environment to perform acts of immense power. The feats are limited only by the individual's strength and imagination.
Aleran society is characterized by a strict caste system with slaves, freemen, citizenry, high lords, and the ruling First Lord. For the most part, the strength of each person's furies is related to their position in the system. The First Lord has unimaginable power while the slaves appear to have just enough to perform tasks that aid daily living. Since Alerans rely upon their furies to supplement their physical strength and to perform even ordinary tasks, the Alerans don't rely upon the technological innovations and do not have the same advances that exist in our world. According to the early accounts of Aleran history, their ancestors first arrived in Alera without these powers. In those early days, the Alerans performed all the tasks themselves and developed innovations that have since fallen by the wayside.
The main hero of the series is Tavi of Calderon. When we first meet him in Furies of Calderon, Tavi is a young shepherd, orphaned and living with his relatives in Calderon Valley, a remote area of Alera. He is an unprepossessing teenager - small for his age and the only person in Alera without the ability to furycraft. Furyless, Tavi would be considered a freak by those who did not know him. But those who get to know Tavi realize that his creativity, intelligence and personality make up for his lack of furies. Tavi stands out as the one person without furies in Alera, and yet this weakness has helped forge his character. It's his character and integrity that enables him to win the respect of the traditional enemies of the Aleran people, and to forge alliances that surpass the feats of many of the highest nobility.
By the sixth book in the series, First Lord's Fury, we have come to learn many of the secrets behind Tavi's identity. If you haven't read any of the Codex Alera series, I don't want to spoil your enjoyment or surprise and will try not go into the adventures in the earlier novels. When First Lord's Fury opens, Tavi goes by the name Octavian and commands the respect and loyalty of the army's First Aleran. Octavian follows the First Lord in the line of succession but his claim still has to be recognized by the Senate. Octavian forged strong alliances with the Marat Nation and the Canim, and their combined warriors must fight Alera's worst enemy yet: the vord.
An unusual species, the vord are insectlike creatures with exoskeletons. They are ruled by a Vord Queen that lays eggs and has absolute control over the millions of worker and warrior vord. The Queen can manipulate the form that each vord takes, and with the conquest of large portions of Alera, the vord now have the ability to furycraft. The invading vord have overrun Alera and it seems like a matter of time until the vord have complete control. The High Lords, citizenry and the military are fighting a losing battle against this rapidly growing enemy. By the time that Octavian, the First Aleran, their Canim and Marat allies return from a sea voyage, there are a few northern cities standing. Octavian must cross the country to join the fight against an enemy that outnumbers them almost 100 to 1. Octavian's only chance at winning will be if he slays the Vord Queen to break the mind hold that she has over her troops. To save his world, Octavian must face this challenge, even if it costs him his life and everyone he loves.
Jim Butcher is a master of world-building and the Codex Alera is one of the most engrossing and satisfying fantasy series that I've encountered. Butcher combines an admirable and inspiring hero with humor, romance, action, and adventure. And he does it brilliantly. Octavian's loyalty, sense of duty, and integrity keep the series fresh and I was completely invested in Octavian's victory. The dialogue is engaging - and the respect and affection among the main characters come across so well. I savored each chapter and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between Octavian and his love Kitai, and the friendship and respect that Octavian shares with his schoolmates, with the officers and men of the First Aleran, and with Varg, Nausug and other former enemies.
This is one of my favorite books of the year. I wholeheartedly recommend the entire Codex Alera series to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure stories.
Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1 edition (November 24, 2009), 480 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author, courtesy of his website:
Jim Butcher is a martial arts enthusiast with fifteen years of experience in various styles including Ryukyu Kempo, Tae Kwan Do, Gojo Shorei Ryu, and a sprinkling of Kung Fu. He is a skilled rider and has worked as a summer camp horse wrangler and performed in front of large audiences in both drill riding and stunt riding exhibitions.
Jim enjoys fencing, singing, bad science fiction movies and live-action gaming. He lives in Missouri with his wife, son, and a vicious guard dog.Thank you again, Angela for this review opportunity!!