Jim Butcher has quickly become one of my favorite authors because of his Dresden Files series. His ability to write snarky, sarcastic characters in a way that actually come across as sarcastic instead of mean or flat is something I’ve rarely seen in other authors. So when I saw that another series by Butcher was on my NPR 100 Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy list, I was excited to try something new by a good author!

Furies of Calderon

Furies of Calderon is the first book in the Codex Alera series. In this unique world of Alera, humans have bonded with the elements as a way to combat their strong enemies. These bonds, called furies, allow people to use nature to enhance their strengths  watercrafters can read emotions better and heal people; earthcrafters are stronger, and windcrafters can use the wind to “fly.” The world is divided into small local farms ruled by Steadholders, which report to a regional High Lord, who in turn reports to the First Lord who runs the country.

The book follows the story of Tavi, a young teenage boy growing up in the rural Calderon Valley. Tavi lives with his uncle Bernard, a strong steadholder in the community, and his aunt Isana, a powerful healer. Along with being an orphan, Tavi is the only person in Alera to not have a fury. Growing up on a farm, his lack of furycrafting has been a constant struggle–he can’t use a water fury to help heal people, he can’t use an earth fury for help traveling in the forest, and he can’t use a metal fury to make and repair farm equipment. And at 15 years old, Tavi has a secret dream to escape his remote village to attend a major academy where he would be judged on his mind, not his lack of a fury.

The other major character is Amara, a female student on her final exam before becoming a Cursor (a knight for the First Lord, who travels throughout the land taking messages and information to people). While Tavi and his family are isolated from the rest of the world in their village, Amara has thrown herself right into the middle of everything. She is currently trying to sneak into a dangerous camp of rogue soldiers and High Lords who are threatening to attack the First Lord and remove him from power.

At the same time she is discovering dangerous political plots that will harm the entire realm, Tavi is discovering a plot by the non-human Marat, powerful hunters who have invaded the Calderon Valley once before.  Amara must take Tavi’s news back to the First Lord, but many people will kill to ensure that news is never delivered.

While I obviously can’t give away how the story ends, it was exciting and full of danger up until the very end. Amara is a powerful windcrafter and Tavi’s intelligence has been honed by years of working without the air of a fury–together, they create a powerful and cunning team that can withstand most any attack. Bernard and Isana also work to protect Amara and Tavi, and the family dynamic between Tavi and his aunt and uncle is wonderful to read (although there are many hints that there may be more to the story of his dead parents than we were originally told!). Add in some romance between Bernard and Amara, and you’ve got some wonderfully developed characters!

Furies of Calderon is as great a read as the Dresden Files, and shows that Butcher is a well-rounded fantasy author. He can write smart, witty characters, great battle scenes, and deeply moving stories of loss. Like every other Jim Butcher book I’ve read, I would recommend Furies of Calderon to any fantasy lover.