Furies of Calderon
Jim Butcher
ACE Fantasy

Epic Fantasy

This book was lent to me by my sister Alice, who touted it as one of her favorite fantasy series ever, which she re-reads every once in a while. Kind of like me with Dragonlance. If you’ve already read Furies, you probably know what the rest of this review will be like.

I didn’t read the blurb before I accepted her much-treasured copies of the entire series, and if I had I would have saved her book the wear and tear. Here goes:

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal. But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir. Ambitious High Lords plot and maneuver to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon.” “Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.” Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave named Amara. But she is actually a spy for Gaius Sextus, sent to the Valley to gather intelligence on traitors to the Crown, who may be in league with the barbaric Marat horde. And when the Valley erupts in chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Amara will find Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness to be a power greater than any fury – one that could turn the tides of war.

I cannot believe an author as prominent as Jim Butcher would be burdened with such a terrible blurb. Adjectives and adverbs and cliches abound, and we are supposed to have sympathy for a boy who can’t use furies to fly or light his lamps. Aww, poor baby. And the metaphors? Wars loom. Caught in a storm. Erupts into chaos. Plus, it is a coming of age novel. Ugh! I set the book aside for a week.

On the strength of Alice’s recommendation alone, I finally started reading it.

Tavi is a fifteen year old boy who has lost his sheep. And since he does not have furies, his mighty uncle Bernard decides he must accompany him in order to protect him. We are at first quite impatient with the uncle, but his instincts turned out to be dead-on. And when Tavi ends up saving his butt, it’s a pretty good start to the novel.

The next character is introduced, Amara. In short order, she finds herself betrayed and on the run. The betrayer, Fidelias, unfortunately gets his own point of view. I don’t mind villain point of view, but they have to be compelling. I did not find Fidelias or his companions anything other than contemptible.

Then Tavi and Amara get thrown together and the furyless Tavi saves her butt as well. But by this point, I have been noticing problems. The point-of-views are shallow, with very little character immersion. Therefore, I only felt the most tepid engagement with the characters. They had my sympathy for their predicaments, but I didn’t particularly like them. Tavi was whiny, Amara was a bland beauty.

A third POV character, Isana, had some potential. She is plain, thirtysomething, never married, and her fury powers make her an empath. However, I did not get enough of her, and I got too much of the other two. If the book was mainly about her, this would be a very different review.

The plot went on and on, and I got over halfway through the novel. Additional points of view were added. Stuff happened. Bad guys kept doing bad things. Good guys kept trying to keep ahead of the situation.

Then, I hit Chapter 28, where a minor villain makes Isana watch another woman get gang raped while he gives Isana his impressions of the proceedings. It is clear that she was next, but I didn’t read on to find out if she got away. The rape was a book killer for me. I set it aside without caring about Isana’s predicament, the upcoming savage/traitor invasion, or anything else.

I am sorry, Alice. Maybe we can read Dragonlance together.