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Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
Review by Madeleine Yeh
Ace / Penguin Putnam HCVR  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441011993
Date: October 31, 2004 List Price 23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Tavi, a teenage shepherd on the frontier of the Alera empire finds evidence that the Marat are invading. He and Amara, an imperial agent disguised as a slave go to alert the garrison. The two are separated, and Tavi is captured by the Marat. Amara accompanied by Tavi's uncle Bernard travel to the fort and alert it, just before the hordes attack. Meanwhile Tavi's Aunt Isana is captured by a sadistic neighbor, and escapes in time to join some of the frontier settlers who are banding together to reinforce the fort. Tavi meets a headman of the Marat who opposes the invasion, and travels with him to the fort. Other dramatis personae include Fidelias, once an imperial agent, and now in the service of a rebellious High Lord; Odiana a crazy witch, Count Garm, commander of the fort; Kitai a Marat whelp; Fade a simpleton; they all gather for the final fight.

The world is filled with Furies. Elemental creatures that can control wind, air, water, earth, wood and metal. Almost all humans are paired with a fury or two. The great magic users with strong furies can fly through air, or move earth or water. The weak can light lamps or blow a cool breeze in their face. Some furies are small and feeble, and control only the temperature in a stove, others can bring great killing storms down from the high mountains.

This is almost a good fantasy book, but its going in so many different directions at once that it never really grabs the reader. The story is told from four viewpoints; Tavi, Amara, Isana, and Fidelias. These view points are incongruous. There are hints of many old secrets locked away in the characters' pasts. Bernard and Isana are oddly protective of young Tavi. The simpleton Fade has strange flashes of competencies. Fidelias has abandoned forty years of supporting the First Lord. The Marat headsman Doroga has an old grudge against Atsurak. The many minor characters in the book are well drawn with distinct personalities, quirks, secrets, and motives. The sheer abundance of these people slows the story and distracts from the main action scene.

There are odd discrepancies which would be overlooked in a more enthralling story. The Stead holders who settle the frontier take shelter from fury driven storms in great stone and earthen bunkers. The Marat uses neither furies nor a wall for protection. The fort uses simple separate barracks and a simple wall. In fact the fort is grossly under built for a fifteen year old structure defending the head of a major invasion route. The First Lord is old, childless and without an acknowledge successor, yet one or more of the High Lords is rebelling now instead of waiting until after the First Lord is dead.

This is nearly a good story. The characters are distinct and individual. The separate scenes are well drawn. The magic is fairly well thought out. It has two great flaws; there are too many view points making it hard to identify with a single story; and there are too many places where things are just silly. A number of the silliness would be overlooked in a more fascinating story, but the suspension of disbelief does not stretch to cover all the logical flaws. The book would be improved by a map. This is book one of The Codex Aleraso more books about these characters can be expected. I hope that future books will have the same interesting characters and a tighter story.

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