Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Jim Butcher is not an unknown author for me, as I already have read a large number of his Dresden novels. Furies of Calderon (2004) is the first installment of the Codex Alera, a series in which Butcher makes his attempt at writing Epic Fantasy.

The story is about a world where everyone has some extent power over the elemental beings of nature. Magic is thus quite commonplace, making life easier and forming a measure of social standing. The main character is a boy who has no powers and has to rely on his regular skills. When a foreign enemy threatens the nation he suddenly finds himself in dire situations.

Although the back cover only talks about the main character, the book also has several side characters whose viewpoint are also shown and who play a big role as well. Butcher handles this quite well. There is some good characterization and development as well. There are several bad guys who get their attention time and Butcher takes his time to flesh them out, which is not that common in Fantasy. I got some feel that this might be some George R.R. Martin influence here, who also tries to make the bad guys grey. It can be interesting to see how this will play out.

Butcher also introduces a different race with a different culture in the book. This is well done and the new race is quite original. As the existence of other enemy races is mentioned I’m interested in how he will develop them.

As we are used from Butcher, the plot moves fast with a lot of action and twists. It is fairly straightforward and not overly complex, while avoiding predictability.  It is however not without flaws. Certain events did bother me later on. There is a scene with all major characters in the center of the novel where there seems to be a gap. There is a shift in events while changing viewpoints and suddenly we have moved on and we have been missed out on how things have went. They are never explained later on. Later on is another twist for the main character which is also not clearly explained. If I missed it while reading, then it has been hidden well. One could perhaps explain things oneself, but that should not be required.

Butcher also has a habit that where things can go wrong, they will go wrong, putting in as many obstacles as possible. Sure, the bad guys can be smart and predicting things, but at some point it seemed too much. Fortunately this improves later on in the novel.

Butcher knows how to write action with twists. In that sense it leaves a feeling for his Dresden novels, as he sticks to what he does well. He does a good job of characterization with multiple characters and viewpoints. The plot moves fast and is entertaining, but has some minor flaws. Even so, he made a strong first novel of an Epic Fantasy series which will attract readers to the next volume. Although its level is certainly above mainstream quality, it is not in the mold of a classic series which will mark the genre, but perhaps it will grow and evolve.

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