Jim Butcher – Academ’s fury

Academ’s Fury (2005) by Jim Butcher is the second book of the Codex Alera, an Epic Fantasy series.  In the first book, Furies of Calderon, Butcher set up the cast of main characters and the position they would take in the story. In the second book a time leap has been made of two years. For Epic Fantasy this is not very common, but it allows the story to skip cliche or standard developments and focus on the main events.

The main character has grown up considerably and has gained a lot more confidence, although his life is far from easy. Whereas the first novel took place in the borderregion of the Aleran Empire, this book takes mainly place in the capital, the heart of the empire, where he studies at the highly acclaimed Academy where he may gain status within the empire, even as he does not have any powers, like everyone else does. The original setting is still there though as a second storyline tells of events taking place at the same time as in the capital, keeping us in contact with the other side characters of the first book. The fact that the events of both storylines occur at the same time is clearly a plot convenience, but it is not something bothersome.

The plot partially focusses on a new big threat and even while the main storyline seems to follow some different directions at first they do converge, making the other things that have happened acting more as side-events. Butcher prefers to stick to fast-paced action to move the plot onwards. He does it well, but he doesn’t seem to like to have his characters talking too much and having action with no violence in it. The story takes place in the capital. There should be plenty of politics and complex situations, but Butcher keeps it to a minimum. A certain faction that is presented as powerful, does not seem to have much in reality in the Aleran society. It did not convince me much.

As the first story took place among farmers and Butcher took some time to present their lives, the lives of the people in the capital remain vague. The city itself remains vague as well and it is hardly described besides some standard elements. This did disappoint me, because it makes the setting generic, giving the reader little to imagine for himself. The story and the action seems to be more important and although it all entertains, it is written on an almost empty background.

There is also little character development. While the first book managed to combine it with the action, there is little in this story. One could stay that the development took place during the two year gap, as the main character is different from the first book, but the contrast was big and perhaps more would have been possible. Character development is not a requirement in fantasy novels, but one could have expected more, especially as there was much to be found in the first book. Usually the first book establishes the characters so that there is space for development in the following novels. Oddly enough, it’s the other way around here.

In my review of the first book I mentioned some flaws in the plot and they are also in this book. A major plot element noted in the beginning of the book is soon completely forgotten and doesn’t play a role anymore. At end there is something mentioned again, but that too sounds a bit odd. Butcher seems to want to put in a lot of interesting leads while they may not be used at all. At the end of the second storyline there is also another plot convenience and I also seemed to have missed out on certain things that had happened or were mentioned earlier but seem to have been forgotten about later on.

For an action-packed fantasy story this is an entertaining book and good read, but it has many flaws for those who care to notice. This is the weakest book I have read by Jim Butcher so far. The first book was about on par with the Dresden novels, but this one is no more than average fantasy. The standard set in the first book was never reached. The book also has a similar feel as his Dresden novels. All events take place within a few days with intense action. While the Dresden novels manage to add drama and development, there was hardly any of that here.

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