My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s hard for me to characterize how I feel about this book and really this series as a whole. I think it’s because I really want to love Codex Alera like I love The Dresden Files, but I just can’t. Butcher’s epic fantasy series just doesn’t match up to his urban fantasy series. I definitely feel that Jim Butcher is a very talented writer. Without question, he has a penchant for writing intense and exciting stories. However, there is something about this series that leaves me, frankly, a little underwhelmed.
I’ve been thinking about it for some time and I think I have finally figured out what it might be. One problem is that the characters are just too flat. They aren’t flat like Wheel of Time flat, but the good guys are really, really good and the bad guys are unquestionably bad. Butcher does work in some grey area characters for sure, but the main characters are really cut and dry.
I think that’s okay for the most part, but the main problem is that Tavi, the protagonist, suffers from this more than any else in the series. Tavi has grown up a lot as the series has gone on, but I think he has actually grown up too much. Early on, he was fun and unpredictable. He was the the only person in all of Alera without a fury and that made him the underdog all the time. He was always had to find creative ways to beat the odds and I thought it also gave him an interesting quality as an individual.
Unfortunately, Butcher eventually relented and gave him magic and now he is bland as can be. Now, he is powerful and predictable. He has grown up so much as a character, but not into an interesting one. Butch seems to rely on the supporting characters like Max and Kitai to bring some life to that portion of the story.
Another problem that I’m finding is that it feels like Butcher is compelled to one-up himself with each novel–the stakes are even higher, the enemy is even more dangerous, etc. By the time you get the fifth novel, it starts to feel a little tired, a little too cliche, and, somehow, a little too epic.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that this novel didn’t leave me dying to read the next book in the series and that, maybe more than anything I mentioned above, makes me realize that I’m just not that into this series.
Okay, now that I’ve got my complaints out of the way, I should mention that I still enjoyed this novel! It was grand in scale and intense and all those things that you should know to expect from Butcher by now. If you have read the first four, I would absolutely recommend that you read Princep’s Fury. You’ll enjoy it without question.