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Friday, January 15, 2010

"First Lord's Fury: Codex Alera #6" by Jim Butcher (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jim Butcher is the author of seventeen previous novels. He’s the author of the super successful urban fantasy series, “Dresden Files” which has been made into a television series by the SY-FY channel. “First Lord’s Fury” is the 6th and ultimate volume in the Codex Alera series.

PLOT SUMMARY: Gaius Octavian has been a man of many talents. For the past 23 odd years he has lived a Fury-less life and has learnt to rely on his mental acumen, his physical fortitude and his instincts. For years he has endured many trials and tribulations and each which have taught him many things and made him the man he is today. Battling ancient enemies, forging new alliances, and confronting the corruption within his own ranks, Gaius Octavian has became a legendary man of war-and has laid claim as the rightful First Lord of Alera.

The aging Gaius Sextus has already fallen in battle. Yet his people continue to resist an invading inhuman army. Desperate Alerans folk are even forced to pledge fealty to the Vord Queen to survive, turning their Aleran furies back on their own people. And despite all efforts, the Aleran forces are being ground into dust and pushed to the farthest reaches of their own realm. However, Tavi has returned with vital insights from Canea, home of the wolf-like Canim. He has plans to counter the Vord blitz and, more importantly, believes from personal experience that human intellect & ingenuity are equivalent to fury-born powers. Now events are rushing towards a last stand, where Tavi and the last Aleran legions must formulate a dangerous new strategy, together. For the glorious Aleran civilization is on the brink of extinction as the savage Vord are looking to wipe out humanity from the face of Alera itself, and Gaius must lead his people to the place of his birth to stand against them-using all of his intelligence, ingenuity, and furycraft to save their world from utter desolation!"

FORMAT/INFO: First Lord's Fury is 465 pages long divided over fifty-seven numbered chapters with a prologue and epilogue. Narration is in the third-person omniscient via numerous characters both major and minor and follows all the characters which were present in the previous volumes. There are a few new POV characters introduced in this volume as well. This book is the last volume and concludes the story begun in the Furies of Calderon. There is also a map provided for the first time of the continent of Alera and its surrounding lands as well.

November 24, 2009 marked the US Hardcover publication of First Lord's Fury via Ace Books an Imprint of Penguin books. The UK version will be published on 6 May, 2010 via Orbit books.

ANALYSIS: This review contains spoilers. As it is near impossible to comment on any aspect of this story without giving away any spoilers from the previous 5 books. This review is going on the assumption that if you are reading this book or planning on reading this book you have the previous knowledge of the series as First Lord's Fury will not make any sense if you haven't read the other 5 books. If you do not want the series spoiled, please do not read any further.

Jim Butcher has long drawn out this story over the previous 5 volumes. Almost all of the clues for this eventual climax are there in the previous volumes. Some are laid out in the open and some of the clues appear inconsequential and up until now made very little sense.

This series was apparently created based on a bet by Jim Buther wherein he was supposed to use a fantasy trope. In this case he did using the hitherto fantastical disappearance of the IX Roman legion and utilized it to plot the seeds of the world of Alera. From this premise he utilized the farm boy/prince cliche and readers were introduced to Tavi; the only Aleran who wasn't able to use any fury power, which is inherent in every Aleran-born human. From there readers are lead on a tale where politics,furycraft and human emotions clashed. All of those have lead up to the finale in First Lord's Fury.

First Lord's Fury, starts off introducing readers to the Vord, who are on the verge of conquering Alera. As the 5th book ended with a very violent end of Gaius Sextus and along side that end was the destruction of the city of Alera Imperia. The citizens of Alera are desperate and the remaining forces are led by Gaius Aquitainus Attis while Gaius Octavius or Tavi, is leading his forces along with Canim from the Canim homeland. It may be a while before he can join forces with the remaining Alerans to fight the Vord. The rest of the cast of the previous books are all here: Amarra, Fidelias/Valiar Marcus, Antillar Maximus, Ehren, Kitai, Bernard and Isana.

For the first time readers get a POV from the Vord queen and her second in command Invidia Aquitainia, who we have learnt in a previous book, has accepted life as a Vord symbiote over her death.

There are other obstacles as well. The Vord seem to be learning all the time, which leads to them advancing in many ways. They have also decided to undercut the human population by offering the an alternative of sorts. This twin action laced plot seems to go on until the first quarter of the book, where on one front Gaius Aquitainus Attis and the remaining high lords are doing their best to make a last stand at a momentous location that is familiar from the first book. While Tavi and his forces are doing their best to join up with them, and on a more personal note Tavi welcomes his new found fury power. Although he is quickly learning that all is not what it seems as an Aleran Fury.

There isn't a moment in which there isn't any action or any movement towards an end to the series. First Lord's Fury ends with a tremendous climax. However not everything is neatly wrapped up, even though the Vord menace is dealt with, the ramifications of the invasion and the eventual disclosures of any type of future are not shown in this volume. Although the tale for the cast of characters that readers have become used to may have ended. This leaves the door wide open for Jim Butcher should he wish to revisit this world in the future.

Jim Butcher has paced this climatic book well. The dialogue and characterization are ever improving and are a real treat to read in this series, with its many different POVs presented. Although this book is filled with many political intrigues and plot twists, the political aspect takes a backseat to the overarching threat. There are many plot twists littered throughout this book concerning both the past and the future of Alera.

In the end, I loved this high octane ending to the saga which began with Furies of Calderon in 2004. In this era of long drawn-out series with massive wait periods between volumes, Jim Butcher has admirably written and finished an epic fantasy sextet. One that is filled with many characters of all shades, lots of political intrigue and with massive amounts of martial and magical action that is equal to the best of them! Now that the series is over, readers can enjoy reading all the books back to back. This is another series which although it features many tropes and cliches presents a pretty cool magic system and an absorbing world structure, that all comes through nicely due to the talented author at its helm.


Meggin said...

I loved this series and book. I hope Jim Butcher will someday write a continuation of the Aleran Chronicles. If not, the Harry Dresden book are eminently readable, too. 1

Nate said...

I started the first book and was immediately annoyed by how ALL dialogue was described with a descriptive clause "she said, raising her eyebrow", "he replied, smirking to himself", "she answered, lips pursed tightly", etc.

Drove me nuts and I put it down.

Why authors of fantasy write such awful grocery store novel dialogue escapes me, considering the genre's forefathers didn't use it at all.

The Reader said...

Hi Meggin

Yeah JB has written a good series with Codex Alera. I hope he does write a follow series as well, in this podcast he mentions 1 particularly enticing scenario with a Marat & Cane as a Sherlock-Watson duo.

@ Nate
That's quite an observation, didn't notice it at all when I read it, however FOC is the first & weakest book in the entire series, the 2nd book improves a lot & this trend continues with each succesive book as well.


Genemei said...

I really like the Codex Alera. It's full of suspense, funny and witty. I always looked forward to what Tavi would do and I cheered him all the way.
Loved the ending of the 6th book, too, especially the note from Gaius Tavarus Magnus. Alera did survive! =)

wren said...

I've readed the first book in italian. I liked it so much that I had to read the following in english.

Marco said...

I had never heard of Jim Butcher until a colleague of mine told me about him. I started with the Codex Alera and now I am going through the Dresden Files. He has easily become one of my favourite authors.
The Codex Alera is amazing, I could not stop reading it. I find the way Jim Butcher got the idea for the series hilarious. Apparently he was challenged to invent a good story based on the Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon :).

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