Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: "Furies of Calderon," by Jim Butcher

I remember when I received Jim Butcher’s “Furies of Calderon” (Ace, $9.99) several years ago, and I was both excited and a little reluctant to read it. I was, and remain, a huge fan of Butcher’s Dresden Files, which follow the misadventures of Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden. I was interested in his take on what he called “swords and horses fantasy,” but at the same time, I was mainly interested in reading more about Harry. I got started on the book, but for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into it, so I put it down after a couple of chapters and moved on.

A few weeks ago, I was looking around for my next read and decided that, while I’m waiting on the newest Dresden book in July, I’d give this series another chance. I’m glad I did.

The story begins with Amara, a Cursor for the High Lord of Alera who has been betrayed by her teacher to rebel forces seeking to usurp the throne. Her flight leads her to the Calderon Valley, a quiet, but rough part of the kingdom, where individual steadholters live a hard life by the sweat of their brow, strength of their spirit and aid of their furies – the elemental beings that they have a bond with. For the most part, the valley is a peaceful place, but a threat lurks hidden, waiting to strike, and the valley is about to be thrust into political machinations.

While in the valley, Amara meets Tavi, the nephew of a prominent steadholter named Bernard, who hasn’t come into his Fury yet. Because of his condition, he is considered weak and stunted by most others in the valley, but he may turn out to be the most important person in the coming conflict.

It’s been seven years since I first tried to read “Furies of Calderon,” and I’m quite sure my head’s in a slightly different place now. I don’t remember what it was that turned me off of the book the first time – maybe just that it wasn’t about Harry Dresden – but this time around, I found myself sucked in by the story. The action is relentless. There’s plenty of scheming, strife and betrayal, and Butcher is able to twist your emotions with his characters.

To me, one of the marks of a good book is that when the characters are in danger, you genuinely care. You want to reach out to them, help them avoid the pitfalls that you see coming, help them get out of a seemingly hopeless predicament. Butcher delivers on that in this book. Though in a different way, “Furies of Calderon” is every bit as strong as tbhe Dresden Files, and I’m glad that I decided to revisit it.

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher -- about seven years ago, but it was provided. :)

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