By Jim Butcher
There is a surprising amount of Fantasy that is essentially an epic game of magical rock, paper, scissors. Various mages, witches and Gods all fighting each other with differing powers. They are strong against one power, but weak against another. The balance of the world rests on all these powers cancelling one another out. But what happens when a hero enters with no powers at all? Their lack of strength means they will be required to use intelligence and guile to get by. Perhaps this is actually the most powerful weapon in anyone’s arsenal?
Tavi returns in Academ’s Fury, the second in Jim Butcher’s The Codex Alera series. He now finds himself in the capital city being trained to become a Cursor; the group of men and women tasked with protecting the crown. When the Head of State falls ill it is up to Tavi to keep this knowledge hidden as it will only lead to civil war. Meanwhile, political intrigue and war continues. A new and more vicious threat has risen from dormancy and a county at internal war would not stand a chance against it.
Better known for The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher’s The Codex Alera series acts as a palate cleanser for both the author and fans of Harry Dresden. There are some elements that link the two together including action set pieces and more twists than you would find at the Chubby Checker Appreciation AGM. However, whilst Dresden lives in the world of Urban Fantasy, Academ’s Fury has a pleasant old school fantasy feel to it.
The world of Alera is a well-developed one, every citizen has their own Fury that imbues them with an elemental power, be it rock, fire, water etc. They use these tools not only for war, but for work. The Furies are so every day that people consider them to be companions. Tavi was introduced in the first book as the only person without a Fury. Whilst that book saw him running around mostly trying to survive, book 2 is a couple of years later and he is now trained to protect himself. This Tavi is an even more interesting character using his mind to solve issues that most people would just use a Fury for.
Academ’s Fury has a split narrative as we follow several characters, Tavi’s auntie and uncle being the other most prominent. I did find that, like with most books that take this format, I was more interested in one storyline than the others. In this case Tavi stands out and I could easily have just read a book that follows his adventures and did not really require the others. The book contains some great action set pieces, but having three stories meant that you were sometimes reading three different action set pieces one after the other and it was too much.
There is an old fashioned feel to this book that reminded me of David Eddings and the likes. It was actually refreshing to read something a little old fashioned as there is a little too much Grim Dark in modern fantasy and some lightness does not go amiss. That is not to say that Academ’s Fury is violence free; it is a pretty gory book, it is just not killing the main characters every chapter. For me, this series is actually superior to The Dresden Files because the characters are a little more vulnerable than Harry Dresden who seems to survive the impossible each week. At least here you are never sure who will live to tell the tale.
Tavi’s rise from simple farm lad to potential savour of the kingdom is the type of classic fantasy storyline that most fans of the genre would have read before countless times, but it works. You really support him and want the best. Butcher is able to draw you in as a reader with his interesting world building, but also a likable main character making the book plain fun old fun to read.
Written on 23rd November 2018 by Sam Tyler .