This series chronicles the adventures of a young man, Tavi, as he rises over and above his humble beginnings to save the realm of Alera, aIntroduction
This series chronicles the adventures of a young man, Tavi, as he rises over and above his humble beginnings to save the realm of Alera, a fictional empire that mirrors the social structure of ancient Rome. The single patriachial monarch, the First Lord Gaius Sextus, is dying and having no heir or clear successor, shows no sign of relinquishing his control over an increasingly fragmented empire. As civil war looms, Alera comes under attack on all sides by hostile enemies and it is up to Tavi to protect his king and country not just from foreign enemies but also traitors among their own ranks. Unlike his fellow countrymen, who use unique bonds with the elemental forces of nature, named furies, for protection, Tavi has no command over any fury and has to rely on his wit and skills with the blade to help the First Lord maintain order against all adversaries.
I have forgotten how to write a proper review, sigh.
My first introduction to Butcher was through his urban fantasy series, the Dresden files, which would help explain why I was taken somewhat by surprise by the Codex Alera. Although Butcher kept his dry sense of humour and self-deprecating characters, the Codex was a traditional coming-of-age fantasy complete with elemental powers. So traditional, I could tell the broad story arc of the series within the first three chapters.
The rest is then really in the details.
Butcher has chosen to create a world of separate and different nationalities, all at war with one another. The Alerans are synonymous with humans, just with the ability to control elemental beings (Captain Planet comes to mind.) The Marat reminds me of Native Americans, particularly with their clan-like structure; the Canims are rather like walking and rational werewolves, complete with the pack mentality and the Ice Men, who I imagine, are modeled after the Northern barbarians. (Barbarians are often from the North. I suspect it is the cold and the surfeit of body hair.) The distinct stereotypes made the story a tad more simplistic than it could have been, especially when interaction between each of these races appear to be limited prior to the events in these series.
Treachery and espionage on all ends, together with the limited territories, result in a series of wars – all of which, naturally, Tavi is on hand to solve. There were moments in the books when I thought he was rather like UN Secretary-General preaching the benefits of mutual understanding and cooperation over and above war. I would have suspected that Butcher is a peacenik influenced by the wars of recent years; it won't be the first time a writer of speculative fiction attempts to rewrite reality in their own utopian creations after all. However, Butcher also subscribes to the "where diplomacy does not work, the common enemy will." A common enemy the likes of nuclear warfare: the overarching evil presence of the Vord, a hive of evil creatures with the ability to possess their enemies' bodies and overwhelmingly destructive powers, forces all the warring parties to drop their enmity with one another and focus their efforts on the Vord. In face of this international crisis, the reasons for civil war are also eradicated, and I trust we already know by this point how this series will end.
The problem with speculative fiction these days: it is getting increasingly harder to find series that really take the reader completely by surprise, especially trade paperbacks. What separates the wheat from the chaff depends heavily on the author's skills beyond creating a plot. In this case, Butcher made this series worth reading through the depth in characterisation, the interactions among the characters, the occasional snide humour, the moral ambiguity and the excellent pacing of the story. I prefer the first three books to the latter three books, largely because of Tavi's development – all of which you'd have to read to find out, because as said, the details make up for the plot.
Like series: The first series that came to mind in reading Codex Alera is David Eddings' the Belergariad. ...more
I haven't updated my Goodreads for so long, I think I have a backlog, but this is the most memorable book among my more recent buys/reads. It is wellI haven't updated my Goodreads for so long, I think I have a backlog, but this is the most memorable book among my more recent buys/reads. It is well written even if the Hitchens is anything but balanced. It is thought provoking but garners only three stars because after a while his rants get a tad repetitive and he throws all intellectual tradition out of the window. His examples are too anecdotal for my liking, but he has them well articulated. Read this, if only just for the debate.
Now I am Catholic, but I think it does our faith good when more people read what the atheists and the agnostics say and accept that they do have their points. I obviously subscribe to the apologists tradition. ...more
**spoiler alert** I am so tempted to give this a 2-star but I did finish reading it, which is more than what I can say about some other fantasy books**spoiler alert** I am so tempted to give this a 2-star but I did finish reading it, which is more than what I can say about some other fantasy books on the market these days, so I stopped short.
I hated the ending. It was too messy and quite honestly I am not certain what all the character deaths are supposed to achieve - largely because there has not been any build up. To quote another reviewer for an earlier HP book, the climax came with a sense of "Oh are we here already?" as opposed to "Oh, I have been waiting for this!" A thin line divides plot twists from poor plot management. All the DB bits are ill-placed, because, he is dead! There are recaps, which is all fine and dandy, and then there are speaking portraits - which had immediately spark off n exasperated "Oh come on" from me.
The one thing still haunting me is, why did Fred have to die?
Wait, a second thing. Harry was deposited at his aunt's place as a baby! How on earth does he ride around on a toy broom as a one-year old??! Illogical if you ask me. Logical lapse.
And of course, after a cop-out of an ending, the 19-years-later bit aggravated me even further. Let's imagine this. As a child, I had to be sent to Muggle world because I am world-famous for being the only one to have survived a death curse. I was so famous, everyone recognised me from my scar. Now years later, I was not only the One-who-Survived, I was the Chosen One who killed You-Know-Who. Which part of that will allow me to happily stand on a platform to send my children to school, without getting stares?! And why on earth will my own children, and my best buddies' children not know why they are being stared at? Well, if they have been cocooned away at home in Muggle World, that makes sense, but my elder son is already in school! On come on.
The problem with a complicated plot is, if you don't manage it well, it falls flat and it becomes a "I am trying to be clever" moment. It runs away from you. The reader reads it once, reads it twice and goes, she's a genius! when it could have been, the reader reads it once and goes, "AH! Tell me more!" I'm done with the series, and I still think, as great as Rowling is, she does not measure to the likes of her inspiration and E Nesbit least of all....more
I always have problems with Rowling's endings from the second book on. She was clearly writing with a broader picture in**spoiler alert** Oh come on.
I always have problems with Rowling's endings from the second book on. She was clearly writing with a broader picture in mind, but that doesn't mean you can't do proper closure for each book as a separate entity. Tolkien did it fine enough and while I am biased on Tolkien's account, take all the generations of children's fantasy authors: E Nesbit, C S Lewis, Madeline L'engle, they all managed haven't they? But yes, details. In Chamber, I really dislike the phoenix bit (no rhyme nor reason, and DB's reason about loyalty is plain, for the lack of a better word, lame). In Azkaban, I had problems with Sirius escaping and Dementors called off, because you think that a ministry will let the escape of a prisoner quite as easily? And don't get me started on time-space continuum. In Order, it was a problem with the way Sirius was killed because it was too freaking abrupt and ditto in Half-Blood for he who died. Oh sheesh. Agitates me.
Two things that continues to agitate me in Rowling's writing style. I had CAPS, because I think the English language is malleable enough without having to bend to computer-literacy rules to make it seem that a character is upset and is shoutingt. Besides, reading CAPS give me a headache, because I am computer literate. I hate multiple eclipses as well. It works well if it happens once or twice at the end of a paragraph or within the quotation marks, but use it too often and it smacks of author-laziness, ("My Dear Reader, please feel free to fill in the blanks...") ...more
This'd be the last book I'd consider giving a 4 star too. I know some folks think that the books become better and better in the last four books, butThis'd be the last book I'd consider giving a 4 star too. I know some folks think that the books become better and better in the last four books, but I think the Quidditch Cup marks the end of Harry Potter as a children's fantasy series and the beginning of the adult alternative-universe genre. I generally prefer children's fantasy because they do not make a pretence of bridging the reality we know with the book-reality created for the fantastical behaviour. It calls for a suspension of belief, which adults often lose the capability to do.
Granted, I suppose, kids, or some adults for that matter, probably won't know enough of our own reality and thus do not build those bridges - therein lies Rowling's genius, catering to different audiences simultaneously. However, I do draw the connections and frankly, it spoilt my enjoyment of the story. From this point on, the books are really about a badly managed power struggle. The twists and turns, I suppose, thrill some folks because yes, Rowling is fantastic with her plots - but I find that often times she builds up to a climax only to let it down with shabby treatment.
The book I probably enjoyed most was the very first. I liked Chamber less the phoenix and Azkaban for its new characters, and Goblet for the first bit on the Quidditch Cup. Thereafter, I have to calibrate my expectations.
I did hesitate as to whether I should give this a 3 or a 4 - I did not like the random appearance of the phoenix, which formed such a pivotal role inI did hesitate as to whether I should give this a 3 or a 4 - I did not like the random appearance of the phoenix, which formed such a pivotal role in the book's climax that it is hard not to be affected by that one sequence alone.
Still, at least this book is still in the realm of children's fantasy. ...more
So obviously all I have been doing in my free time these last couple of days was to read children fantasy. I had been meaning to pick up Spiderwick foSo obviously all I have been doing in my free time these last couple of days was to read children fantasy. I had been meaning to pick up Spiderwick for the longest of time - if only for the pretty illustrations. I like my illustrations, now more than ever. It was a tad disappointing because the plot ran all over the place and I did not quite like the writing style. I can't put my finger on it, but I suppose the language simply is not wrought well. Philip Reeve in Larklight and Starcross has a marvellous way of speaking to the reader, while J K Rowling can tell a story with a richness of details. Spiderwick however is written as a collection of serial columns, which means the writing tends to be more economical and the plot lines truncated.
Which is to say, I still prefer British authors I think. ...more
And yes, I must be the last person who ever claim to love children's fantasy to read Harry Potter but as I am fond of telling people, I picked it up fAnd yes, I must be the last person who ever claim to love children's fantasy to read Harry Potter but as I am fond of telling people, I picked it up from the back shelf 10 years ago when the book was published as Philosopher's Stone, read the first chapter and was simply not taken in. So, I finally got around to picking it up - and still do not think I was entirely brought into Hogwarts. Nonetheless, it does number against one of the better children fantasy fiction reads.
Characters were lovely, yes, but the plot was a tad confusing (I used Rowling took her time, I did feel I was being rushed). Writing was sufficient to keep me hooked, but I did come from the heels of Larklight, whose writing style I adore even more. If I have even one gripe about the book, it is the frequent use of CAPS. I don't think it is necessary to use font to emphasise tone, but I am particular that way.
Four because evidently I didn't have to run out to a library at the last hour just to get the sequel. ...more
I actually typed a darn review and it disappeared! Again this was great stuff, writing was just in the line of humour I appreciate, while illustrationI actually typed a darn review and it disappeared! Again this was great stuff, writing was just in the line of humour I appreciate, while illustrations are fantastic. However I think the plot is a tad too similar to Larklight - it runs along the same concept - and there is, especially for the young children it is meant for, a tad too much attention on Myrtle and Jack. If there was a 4.5 rating this would have been it - I can't bring myself to give it a 4, just for the ingenuity of making 'top hats' villains and for staying in line with tradition and make fun of the Anglo-French relations.
It was a page turner, enough for me to finish the book in one sitting on my ride to work, and it is not that easy keeping me awake at 7 am. ...more
I seldom feel a compulsion to post a review of books I've read - if only because I am usually much too lazy - but Larklight is absolutely MARVELLOUS.I seldom feel a compulsion to post a review of books I've read - if only because I am usually much too lazy - but Larklight is absolutely MARVELLOUS. I have been scouring the shelves for children fantasy and very few books these days convince me to stay with it and turn its pages to the end in one sitting, seeing how I have become more jaded, but goodness, Larklight blows the mind away. Its merits is all the more outstanding because it is written in the first person and the only other book in first person I actually like is Robin Hobb's Assassin series.
I shall not bother expounding on the plot here - suffice to say, it's a science-fiction journey-adventure story based in an alternative universe, where the British Empire apparently extends to outer space. The writer straddles the old Victorian and the new sci-fi-future-domain amazingly well and the main characters are very well fleshed out for a book that is only 400 pages long (large print). The writing was supreme, with a light hand with the wit (some authors try too hard) and fantastic way with this pseudo-serious-encyclopedic discussions. To sweeten the entire deal, the book comes interspersed with the most astounding illustrations by David Wyatt, which far from being stand-alone interpretations of the text, were weaved into the core of the story. Excellent reading, excellent viewing pleasure.
It is so good, I'm headed to Amazon to buy the hardcopy. Comes with a sequel Starcross. ...more
If you have ever read Updike, his plots are seldom far from his penchant adultery/struggle between moral confines and open sexuality. Which is why youIf you have ever read Updike, his plots are seldom far from his penchant adultery/struggle between moral confines and open sexuality. Which is why you don't read Updike for his plots - you read him almost entirely for his style. He's a wordsmith, who takes time with every turn of phrasing. It makes him a tiresome read for any but those who appreciate linguistic play just for its cleverness. Presumptuous, but still, well deserving of its accolades. ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this series - the political maneuvering, the complex plotlines, the multi-dimensional characters. In a way, this was a protractedI thoroughly enjoyed this series - the political maneuvering, the complex plotlines, the multi-dimensional characters. In a way, this was a protracted happy-ending for the first trilogy. It is difficult to express what I love about this series without giving the plot away. Suffice to say, I found the Fool's gift to Fitz from the Girl on the Dragon a philosophical and profound answer to some of the unanswered questions in the first. I am not too certain who did the growing up, I, the reader or Fitz of Hobb's writing: but this series was a lot more melancholic and introspective than the last.
I fall short of giving a complete 4 for the series, because I thought the last book was a tad mangled. Too much was happening, all at once. It was also in this book that I found the characters have stopped developing, too comfortable as it is in their own moulds. Still, all in all, a worthy read. ...more
The problem with fantasy books is that they seldom warrant re-reading, but this trilogy is a pleasant exception. I first read this series a good ten yThe problem with fantasy books is that they seldom warrant re-reading, but this trilogy is a pleasant exception. I first read this series a good ten years ago, and it remains to this day the only series where I appreciated a first-person narrative. I picked it up again recently, just so I can go on to read the second trilogy, which I never got around to.
The focus then and now have changed. Then, I was intrigued by the idea of Wit, where a human being share a bond with an animal. Character development was also a key hook: the mysterious Fool, the wry Nighteyes and a nearly bumbling protagonist, Fitz, made the trilogy a captivating read. Upon rereading however, I am more caught by the political intrigue and the struggle of an oppressed minority, the Witted. The dynamics between the characters have gained more depth with this more mature understanding of the political environment that was the Farseer regime.
The trilogy however left a lot of loose ends, and it did not culminate in a happy ending. Safer to call it bitter sweet. Hobb probably had the second trilogy in mind by the time he finished writing, because many of the questions were answered in the Fool's trilogy, which is equally a page turner. ...more