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Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

November 28, 2011

145. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (2004)
Codex Alera, Book 1

Read By: Kate Reading
Length: 19h 59m (672 pages)

Genre: Fantasy

Started: 19 October 2011
Finished: 08 November 2011

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? A friend who was reading the series wanted me to read it so that she would have someone in the know with whom to talk about it.

Just because Tavi
takes care of sheep doesn’t make
him less a pigboy.

Summary: The Calderon Valley has been peacefully isolated from the concerns of the Aleran Empire since the last battle between the Alerans and the warrior tribesmen of the Marat, over fifteen years ago. The High Lord’s son was killed in that battle, and as Gaius Sixtus ages, the power of his line has dwindled. When a young messenger/spy in training, Amara, is betrayed by her mentor and discovers a plot against the High Lord, she is sent to the Calderon Valley to protect the interests of the Empire. Meanwhile, two inhabitants of the valley, Tavi, an orphaned and apparently magic-less young man, and Bernard, his uncle, are out gathering in a stray flock of sheep when they encounter and narrowly escape from Marat scouts – a strong sign that another invasion is brewing. Now it seems that once again, the Calderon Valley will be a focal point in the history of the Aleran Empire.

Review: This book felt like it took me forever to get through, primarily because I never found myself particularly compelled to turn it on and listen to more. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it also never really captured my imagination or got me involved in the story. Partly, this was because it’s a story that I’ve heard before. It took me a while to realize it, since the beginning of the book is focused on Amara’s story, but Furies of Calderon is pretty much a straight pigboy parable (i.e. orphaned boy of mysterious parentage lives on his uncle’s farm until the agents of evil come to attack them, at which point he must flee because it turns out he’s the only one with the power to save the world, etc.) That on its own wouldn’t be a problem; I’ve read and loved plenty of books that follow the general pigboy storyline. But Butcher is also not particularly subtle with his plotting; at 1/3 of the way through this book, I’d already guessed who Tavi’s parents were… a plot point that’s not even revealed until later in the series. (I checked with a friend who has read them all, and she confirmed that I was right.) Knowing more or less how the entire series was going to go effectively put a damper on any narrative tension that Butcher might otherwise have built.

Again, the book’s not terrible, just not a standout. The system of magic – manipulating various kinds of elemental spirits called furies – is not particularly novel, but is used to good effect, particularly in fight scenes, and has some very creative possibilities. The characters, while largely archetypal, at least behave and interact believably. Butcher also writes action well, and there’s a definite sense that the fight scenes are his favorite thing to write, given how lively and quick-moving they are compared to some of the rest of the plot. But no matter how good certain elements are, they’re unlikely to be good enough to rescue my enjoyment of the book if I’m not engaged with the characters or the story… which in this case, I just wasn’t. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This may be better for folks who gravitate towards action rather than intricate plotting in their high fantasy, or for those who are less jaded then I am when it comes to fantasy orphans and their various destinies.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Kay’s Bookshelf, Piling on the Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The course of history is determined not by battles, by sieges, or usurpations, but by the actions of the individual.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2011 9:04 am

    Well, that’s disappointing. This is on my list (partly because Butcher says he wrote it on a dare), but the first one is a bit difficult to find. I am intrigued, however, by the fact that Kate Reading is narrating a story with a male protagonist—I so rarely find female audiobook readers and have never seen one do a strictly male story. She also did The Way of Kings, but she alternated chapters with Michael Kramer; I’m assuming she covered the female protagonists, but I’m not completely sure.

    • November 28, 2011 9:05 am

      Urgh, strictly male isn’t the term I wanted to use—a story with a single protagonist who is male, is what I meant.

    • November 28, 2011 9:13 am

      Omni – I didn’t listen to The Way of Kings, but she and Michael Kramer also narrate the Wheel of Time books, where they do split male/female POV chapters, as you’d expect. Furies of Calderon isn’t strictly male (I knew what you meant), either; there are POV chapters from Amara and Tavi’s Aunt Isana.

      And I wouldn’t totally cross it off your list – I’ve seen a lot of other reviews that are a lot more enthusiastic than mine. I mean, hell, it made the NPR 100 best SFF list. And there were some elements I did enjoy, I just didn’t really connect with the characters, which I’m sure is pretty idiosyncratic.

  2. November 29, 2011 9:49 pm

    I want to work on the Dresden Files first before starting this other series…

    • December 2, 2011 10:28 am

      Kailana – I haven’t read any of the Dresden Files either (except the short story that was in Songs of Love & Death). I wonder if I’d been a Dresden Files fan first, if that would have affected my reaction to this book…

  3. Chris permalink
    December 4, 2011 11:40 am

    I wanted to like this book. It has some good scenes and ideas, but the many battles ruin it. The second one is even worse.

    I couldn’t stand the first two Dresden Files, but they get better around the third one. I’m not sure why people like them so much. It seems to be on a short list of books that guys are comfortable recommending to other guys. Butcher, Abercrombie, and Scott Lynch all seem to have a rabid male following but don’t make it to my personal “best of” list.

    • December 8, 2011 9:30 am

      Chris – I love Scott Lynch’s books (and I’m female), but I read the first Joe Abercrombie book and swiftly decided it wasn’t for me… and I agree that, like this one, it does have sort of a testosterone-y tone to it.

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