So I completely forgot about TBR Day and only realized that it was today when I visited Wendy's blog ^_^; Sigh, I've been such a bad blogger lately. The good news though is that I had plenty of books that qualified :P Therefore, it's just a matter of writing the review... Let see if I can do it :)
Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
published by Berkley (Ace Fantasy) in September 2004
In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies - elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal - fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos - when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies - Tavi's simple courage will turn the tides of war.Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera, Book #1
The Story: Hmmm, okay, this is going to be hard to summarize. You have the realm of Alera which resembles the Rome Empire. It is led by the First Lord, Gaius Sextus, who is aging and weakening and is without a heir, as his son, Princeps Gaius Septimus, died 15 years ago during a battle between the Alerans and the Marat - kind of a group of nomadic barbarians. Thus, some of his High Lords (barons) have started plotting to establish themselves as the next First Lord. That is kind of the series story arc.
As for Furies of Calderon, it starts with the betrayal of Fidelias, Alera's master cursor (spy). Fidelias deems that it is time for Sextus to step down or at least choose an heir and by not doing it, he has doomed Alera. Fidelias tries to convince his most promising student, Amara, to follow him, but she refuses... and then manage to escape to Calderon - the region where the battle between the Marat and Alerans took place years ago. There, she meets Tavi, a strange young man.
Tavi is a 15 years old orphan raised by his aunt, Isana, and his uncle, Bernard (siblings, not married) who is considered special because he does not possess any furies, i.e. elemental spirits. Everyone is able to do some furycraft, but Tavi has no talent at all and is thus considered a freak, beneath everyone. Tavi's goal is to establish his own herd of sheep and make enough money out of it to attend the Academy where perhaps he could find a trade where furycraft is not necessary. While retrieving some errant sheep with his uncle, Bernard, they run into a Marat beast... and both realized that Calderon is once again threatened by the presence of the Marat and that a battle is preparing... Unfortunately, nobody believes them... and thus, it is up to Tavi, Amara, Bernard and company to save the day.
My Opinion: I bought the Codex Alera books (#1-4) a few years ago, after I started reading the Dresden Files. I figured since I enjoyed the Dresden Files so much, I would like the Codex Alera series as well. However, the transition was harder than I thought it would be. I remember actually skimming through Furies of Calderon and then, just putting the book aside, because it didn't really interested me ^_^; Then not long ago, Taja picked up the series (other post) and seemed to really enjoy the books... so I decided to give it another try. I'm glad I did.
Furies of Calderon is written in the third person POV and follows multiple storylines at the same time. Actually throughout the series, there are usually three threads occuring: Tavi, Isana and Bernard/Amara. I think this is the major difference between the Codex Alera and Dresden Files series when it comes to writing style. Me, I actually prefer third person POV, so I didn't really mind... however, the multiple storylines - well there's always one or two that are more interesting and therefore, I tend to skim through the one I like less ^_^; I don't think it's a bad thing, but it can make the book feel quite lengthy and the pacing a bit off. In this case, I really preferred Tavi and Bernard/Amara's storylines over Isana's. Sorry, but slavery and brutality are definitively not my forte and I always find it hard to read and stomach it :(
Where to start? Hmmm. I enjoyed the characters, especially Tavi. He's a determined boy, not necessarily strong, but very clever and witty. It's clear that not being able to do any furycraft has been hard on him, how people treat and view him. Not everyone is mean to him, but he definitively has something to prove - to himself and to everyone else. Because of his lack of furycraft, he had to be more resourceful... While I liked Tavi, I thought his character was a bit hesitant at time and he read younger than his 15 years of age. Perhaps it's the way Isana and Bernard treated him and the fact that he's always had their support in the past and he was a bit lost without them.
Aside from Tavi, my favorite characters are definitively Kitai, a Marat girl Tavi kind of befriends, and her father, Doroga, leader of the Marat and headman of the Gargant tribe (are gargants elephants?!?). LOL, it was hilarious when Tavi realized that Kitai was a girl. She's smart and clever and knows what she wants. As for Doroga, he is very honest and a good leader. There is a slew of other characters... But I'll just comment on a few. Bernard, I liked him. He is upstanding and responsible. Amara, I thought she was a bit too straight an arrow. It felt she was a bit too blind to things... but she can be flexible and very adaptable. Isana, I don't know. I didn't like her storyline much, so it's hard to comment. All I can say is that the way she was introduced, she felt old and tired... and finally, Fade which is a slave that keeps an eye on Tavi. He pretends to be slow-minded, so no comment until we find out more about him.
The storylines in Furies of Calderon were okay. I liked Bernard and Amara, seeing how they prepared to counter a possible attack from the Marats. It's always frustrating when important people don't believe the characters and ignore warnings... However, Bernard and Amara did a good job, doing their best. Tavi's storyline was okay. I felt it lacked a bit of excitement and the pacing seemed to be off in comparison to Bernard and Amara's stroryline. The resolution also seemed to be a little bit too simple, but I guess it's the Marats' customs. As for Isana's storyline, well, hmmm, didn't like at all for the reasons I mentioned above.
Overall, I thought Furies of Calderon was a so-so book. In the series, it is my least favorite of all... however, I think the principle reason is that Furies of Calderon is a set-up book. It introduces the characters, the world building, the politics/alliances while trying to convey a storyline at the same time. I felt the story was a bit weak and seriously, have I not known that Taja enjoyed the series so much, I would have done as before and just stop reading it.
My Grade: B-. On its own, I would have given Furies of Calderon a C+; however, given it's the first book in the series and therefore is there to set-up things, I'm going to be lenient.