Well, I mentioned I was going to review the latest Codex of Alera book - and now that I've finished reading it - I've made a decision
I'm not going to review it. I am, instead going to review and give a general overview of the series as a whole. Mainly because starting a story near the end doesn't make much sense.
So - the basics. The Codex of Alera is planned to be a six book series by Jim Butcher. The most recently released book is the fifth - the sixth is expected in December of next year - so you all have plenty of time to get caught up. The first book of the series is "Furies of Caldron." The story through the entire series follows a main character who starts as an adolensent boy in a world that is an interesting mix of Ancient Rome and a sort of magic. The Magic is provided by Furies - which allows for flight, strength, fire basically the whole gamut you can think of.
The main character previously noted is named Tavi - and he's a freak. He's the only person in collective memory that *can't* use Furies - at all. He can't even turn on the lights in his room, for instance.
He and his family are drawn into the political machinations of Alerian Society when their Home is attacked by a barbarian horde not seen in almost two decades. The first story is full of action, intregue, political machinations, and generally well thought out plot.
Unlike Butcher's other foray into a major series the Dresden Files, the Codex of Alera is written in third person, and while it typically follows Tavi and his exploits, the scenes change as needed to flesh out secondary characters, and give the reader a better feel for the overall plot.
The first three books of the series are extremely strong in this reguard, and while I wouldn't say Butcher writes an overly complex set of political machinations in with his action and adventure - they are well thought out, and you seldom find a character who you stop and scratch your head wondering "Wait, who was that, and what was their reason for whatever?"
But the action and adventure are what will keep you coming back. Butcher knows how to write a good action sequence, and makes it hard to put down. The Main character is likable, and you find yourself wondering how he's going to solve each problem he's faced with - as he struggles to prove himself in a society where he utterly doesn't fit. Along the way he picks up a central cast of friends that support him as he becomes rather the brains of the outfit to his friends brawn.
The fourth book stumbles a bit I think, as Butcher explores a bit more of the political machinations of the realm, and what is going on around Tavi in some of his later exploits - and this is more to do with the fact that I feel certain decisions get made that don't seem to fit with the characters as well. It was still a fun read, but I was grinding my teeth through about a four chapter section, until the book returned to its strong suit, and at least temporarily resolved my 'problems' as it were.
The fifth and most recent book is a return to form, with a lot of big reveals - including a few things that make some of the choices I cringed about earlier in the fourth book make more sense... in retrospect. However, knowing that the main character didn't know these things, when the decisions were made, does not completely absolve my mild annoyance. It also feels just a tad rushed - which when you consider that Butcher is putting out two solid books a year, and working on at least three other projects I'm aware of - isn't really surprising. There are a few editing problems with the first edition - but I've found this is fairly common from Ace books.
All in All, the Codex of Alera is, so far - a great first foray into fantasy for Butcher. Its not for everyone - but if you like action and adventure mixed with a bit of mystery, subterfuge and political machinations, Butcher and his strong central cast will keep you coming back for more.
Today the first four books are out in paperback, and the fifth book is out in Hardcover.
They are, in order:
Furies of Caldron
Go check em out.