Jet's Reviews > First Lord's Fury

First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher
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's review
Jan 03, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy, mission-2010
Read in January, 2010

Introduction

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.


Review

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.
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