Furies of Calderon is the first book in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera. The book series came about as the result of a discussion about whether a good premise could overcome a bad writer or vice-versa – that a good enough writer could come up with a story even from a bad premise. Jim’s response was to say give him two terrible ideas and he’d write the book combining them; so here we are with a book that combines the Lost Roman legion and Pokemon!
This is not my first time reading this series and I actually read it before The Dresden Files because when I read about it the concept was just cool. This first book starts with the clichéd orphaned teenage boy of the classic fantasy novel, growing up on basically a farm (he’s looking after sheep) who then gets dragged into conflict and also clearly isn’t just a “farm boy”. Tavi of Calderon is immediately bright, resourceful, and engaging but in the world of the book is treated as a freak because he doesn’t have access to “Furies” which are magical spirits connected to elemental powers. Everyone else has these and magic provides the technological base of the books with people using fire to power homes, air to fly, etc.
The book does a great job of introducing characters and in this first novel focuses on the smaller scale conflict in the Calderon Valley. Later books broaden the scope to a global one as Tavi grows older and heads out into the world. But even in the first book we see signs of political infighting and get our first glimpse of the broader scope villain (even though it’s not immediately obvious). We also get the hints that Tavi is maybe more than he appears as is his Aunt Isana and the apparently dimwitted slave Fade. I think one of these is easily identifiable in the first book and that in itself may make the other two more obvious – particularly as the book titles become an obvious clue (hint – this first book should be called “Shepherd Boy’s Fury” to be consistent)
The thing I love about this series – and for me it’s the same as in The Belgariad by David Eddings – is that the stock nature of the plot does not detract from the quality of the work. This book proves the strength of interesting and compelling characters in a clearly defined world with a logical set of rules. I am more than happy to re-read this series because I like the people I’m reading about.
The novel is self contained so can be read as a completed story without continuing on but if you are like me it will prompt you to pick up and carry straight on through the next five.