by Jim Butcher
Review by Madeleine Yeh
Ace Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012833
Date: July, 2005 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
A horrible alien intelligence has broken dormancy and is invading the world. The last time it destroyed the Marat cities and nearly all of the Marat population, this time its after the humans. These hive mind insectoids shape changers can invade other people's bodies and turn them into mindless zombies. Its own shape can change from small insects that can invade a sleeping foe to very large animals that can rip their opponents apart and trample the remnants. The vord has already split into three separate hives. One of the hives is attacking the Calderon valley, and another is headed for the human capital.
Bernard and Amara are defending the valley, and his sister Isana rushes to the capitol to warn the First Lord and obtain help. She finds this impossible. The official channels are clogged by bureaucrats; the ranks of the secret agents, the Cursori, have been compromised; and Isana's nephew Tavi cannot be found. Tavi has serious problems of his own, the First Lord is incapacitated and Tavi is concealing this. The First Lord's helplessness could trigger coups and attempts to break up the empire.
Just because the heroes have a monumental crisis to deal with, doesn't mean it's the only thing bothering them. Tavi must also cope with bullies, muggings, final exams, and jail breaks. Bernard and Amara have personal problems; he wants to get married and she has serious reservations. Isana finds herself the target of assassins, and a symbol for a women?s rights league.
This is a fun romp of a book. There is everything in it from horrific aliens to desperate battle to political intrigue to secret identities to duels to jailbreaks and uncatchable thieves and secret tunnels. The action is fast and furious. The characters tumble from one major problem to another without rest. It's not however the best of universes, it's hard to figure out what affect magic has upon the society and people and how the society works. Some people have enough air magic to dry their hair, others can fly through the air, and still others can alter the course of storms, but the author never makes it clear how this affects the society or the people.
This is the second book in the series The Codex Alera and it shows distinct improvement. The book is tighter, there are fewer separate plots, and they dove tail together more closely. The characters are more believable and more sensible. It is unnecessary to read the first novel to enjoy this one. The first book in this series is Furies of Calderon, which introduces all of the main characters.