Book Review: First Lord’s Fury

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First Lord's Fury First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a pretty solid conclusion to Butcher’s first foray into epic fantasy. Overall, it was consistent in quality with the other books in the series, which puts it at about 3 or 4 stars out of 5.

I read this series because I love the Dresden Files, Butcher’s ongoing urban fantasy series. Those are some amazing books. I really liked the first in this series as well, but, after that, I thought they lost something. Furies of Calderon was fun and suspenseful, with great characters–typical Butcher mastery. The second was pretty similar, but the rest just got a bit too down to earth.

I’ve always felt that Butcher’s greatest talent is his ability to write amazing characters–the Dresden Files is loaded with them–and a second, only slightly lesser talent, is his ability to write highly suspenseful action scenes. The Codex Alera series has both of those in droves, but perhaps not up to the same standards as the Dresden Files.

The main problem is Tavi, he’s just nowhere near as cool as Harry Dresden. Tavi is a character you can respect, but he’s a Luke Skywalker and Dresden is Han Solo. Tavi’s just so inherently good, there’s never any real surprises in his decision making. The only real surprises are in the plot (and there really are a good amount there).

But, if you ask me, there are two primary reasons why the series loses momentum:

  1. Starting with the third novel, there’s too much emphasis on war, first with the Canim and then with the Vord. Four books of nearly incessant battle is just too much. There’s not enough time for the human element.
  2. *Spoiler alert* Once Tavi started to get powers, he became a much less interesting character. I really enjoyed seeing how Tavi would overcome villains and other problems without the advantage of magic. Once he had magic, really, really powerful magic, that was gone.

Overall, First Lord’s Fury was pretty good. There a number of suspenseful battles, both small in scale and massive. In fact most of the novel was battle, which I suppose was fitting.

If you have made it through five novels, please do yourself a favor and finish the series. If you are partway through and you’re not sure if you should continue, I would say if you liked the third novel, then keep going, but if you didn’t, then you should probably quit, because all of the novels are really about the same quality from that point forward.

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Review: Princeps’ Fury

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Princeps' Fury Princeps’ Fury by Jim Butcher

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.

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2011 Reading Resolutions

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I didn’t really make a New Year’s resolution for 2011, but I have given a little thought to what books I’m excited about reading. I typically read about 20 novels a year (which is way less that what I actually want to read) and basically everything I read tends to fall into the category of speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction and fantasy).

So with that in mind, here are some novels (both old and new) that I’m looking forward to reading in the next year.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I’ve been dying to read this for awhile. I keep hearing so many good things about it and keep seeing it near the top of lists that taut “top fantasy novels of the decade” and so forth. Luckily, I’ve got a copy sitting on my mantle just waiting for me to pick it up. My goal is to have it read by the time Wise Man’s Fear comes up in the spring.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I got The Hunger Games for Christmas and read it by the new year. A very fast read and a gripping story. I’m definitely excited to see what happens next.

Side Jobs and Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Side Jobs is a short story collection and Ghost Story is the thirteenth novel in the Dresden Files, which is one of my favorite series right now. I picked up Storm Front when I was travelled a few years ago and immediately read the next seven. I finally caught up with Changes last year.

The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

These are the second and third novels in the Mistborn trilogy. I read Mistborn: The Final Empire in late 2010 and I thought it was fantastic. I actually bought the whole trilogy so I’ve got them on hand and I plan to read them both this year.

Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher

This is book five in the Codex Alera epic fantasy series. I don’t like it as well as the Dresden Files, but it’s still good. I got this for Christmas as well so I’ll definitely have to slot it in this year.

Read Books that I Own

I got several novels for Christmas and I’m a little backlogged at the moment. Another one of my goals is to simply reduce the number of unread novels in my house.

Read a New Author

There are tons of authors that I’ve never read that I’ve been longing to try out. I think the odds are good that I’ll pick up something by one of these authors this year: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Joe Abercrombie, and China Mieville.

Read Something Random

Every year, despite everything else I want to read, I’ll stumble across something on and just run to the library and pick it up. I like doing that. It’s nice to just read some spontaneously once in awhile and it reminds me that reading is something I do for fun, not a chore.

Well, I think that’s pretty much it for 2011. I think it’s going to be a great year for reading. I’ve discovered so many great authors and series lately, the hardest part is finding time to read them all.

In Over My Head

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One of my favorite hobbies is reading, especially science fiction or fantasy novels. I have always been a reader going back to childhood, but I didn’t really delve into the fantasy realm until I read The Lord of the Rings in college. Since then, I’ve been devouring as much fantasy as I can while sprinkling in a highly recommended science fiction novel for variety from time to time.

But this has lead to a small problem. I may have over committed myself and I’m now realizing that I am partway through far too many series. I have officially put a hold on starting any new series until I finish at least a couple of these. Here’s the damage:

  • Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series: On book 4 of 13 (with one more on the way)
  • Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series: On book 3 of 13
  • Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy: Currently reading book 2 of 3
  • Stephen King’s Dark Tower series: On book 4 of 7
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune saga: On book 4 of 6
  • Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series: On book 5 of (currently) 6
  • Orson Scott Card’s Ender saga: On book 2 of 4
  • Karl Schroeder’s Virga: On book 3 of 3
  • George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice: On book 2 of (currently) 4
I’m also reading a couple other series, but luckily I’m caught up on those. I have read all 12 of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files (my current favorite series) and I’m just awaiting the final novel in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.
Hopefully, I’ll catch up on some of these pretty soon so I can get started on a few other series that I’m really excited about.

What to Read

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Last night, I finished the fourth book in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, Captain’s Fury. I started reading it on the plane ride to Comic-Con and finished most of the book over the course of the trip. It was probably the best in the series so far.

One of my favorite things about Butcher’s novels–especially in the Dresden Files, which I prefer over Codex Alera–is his pacing. He never lets his foot off the gas. His novels are a constant thrill ride and I love that. The fourth book was no exception.

The other thing that Butcher does really well is write compelling characters. I do think he does a better job of it in the Dresden Files–there isn’t a character that I don’t love or love to hate–but Tavi is really developing into an interesting, if not a little too perfect, character.

The last point I want to make about the fourth book was that it was awesome seeing some of the plot devices from earlier novels reemerging and seeing many questions get answered. I really like how there is a clear, underlying plot that helps string each novel together.

But now that I’ve finished the book, I can’t decide what to read. I’ve got several novels on my shelf that I still need to read including God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert and Shadow Rising (Book 4 of the Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan, but I think I have decided upon Royal Assassin, which is the second novel in the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb.

Well, I’m out. Godspeed.