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Sunday, November 05, 2006

***** Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. Fantasy. Re-read.

Morning read with the boys. They loved it. They complained when I had to quit reading; asked a lot of questions about what was going to happen next; speculated; and when we finished it, they picked Academ's Fury over the new Tiffany Aching as the next read. High praise indeed.

Furies of Calderon takes place in Carna, a world ruled by 4 distinct and very different races: the Alerans (humans, not unlike Romans), the Marat (human-like barbarians who bond with animals), the Canim (dog-like), and the Icemen (we haven't met them yet). The Alerans use magic, in the form of furies, elemental spirits.

Tavi of Calderon is a teenager who's an oddity, a freak--he can't use furies at all. While bringing in the sheep, he stumbles onto a plot to overthrow the throne of Alera by allowing a Marat invasion. Aided by the cursor (messenger/spy/agent) Amara, his aunt Isana, uncle Bernard, and trusty but mysterious slave Fade, they end up thwarting the invasion and keeping Gaius Sextus's throne safe... for now, at least.

It's a rich, well-developed world, full of plots and intrigue--Gaius Sextus, in particular, never has one motive for an action when a dozen will do, and the traitorous Fidelias (with the nicely ironic name) is nearly as complex.

The separate threads of the book--Tavi, Isana, Amara, and Fidelias are each followed individually--are well balanced, and each of the protagonists has believable strengths and weaknesses. Tavi in particular is realistic as a good kid, an orphan, who tries to do the right thing, but screws up sometimes. His lack of furies and the way he deals with it could have been maudlin and sappy in less skilled hands, but not here.

Unlike the majority of fantasy I've read, this series is easy to read. Not simplistic, by any means, but it's not a chore to read the way fantasy often is. Names are unusual but not unpronounceable; descriptions are clear and concise and limited to what the characters would legitimately be observing. Proof positive that long, dull laundry lists of "this is how the fantasy world is different" are not necessary to create a vivid, realistic world. And I'm sure I've mentioned before that Jim's one of the very few authors who writes action scenes I can follow. No easy task when you have a whole battle, but he managed it.

And despite the fact that the worldbuilding is thorough and the plot is complex, the characterization doesn't suffer in the least. Dialogue flows naturally, and each character has his own unique voice, goals, and motivations.

This is the 4th time I've read Furies--and it's very re-read-able. In fact, it's fascinating to re-read, because now that I've read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series, seemingly insignificant details take on much greater import.

Jim Butcher is one of my very favorite authors--the best of the best, along with Pratchett and Crusie and Dunnett--and good as this book is, he's improved with each book, and the latest, Cursors Fury, due out in December, is his best yet.


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I like this series better than the Harry Dresden books.
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