Book review of Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon
Jim Butcher is one of the hottest names in urban fantasy right now, but how does his writing style translate into the epic fantasy genre? This was the main question I wanted to answer when approaching Furies of Calderon. I’ve only read the first novel in Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Storm Front, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but I wondered how Butcher’s knack for writing fast-paced mystery in an urban setting would transfer to a classic epic fantasy.
The characters in Furies of Calderon are good, if not as memorable as Harry Dresden and crew. We have Tavi, a boy who is handicapped by not having matured into his fury – what Butcher describes as magic – when everyone else his age has already gained their fury. We are introduced to a fairly standard cast of characters: Tavi’s uncle and aunt, keepers of Bernardholt, Amara, a girl in the king’s employ, and a great villain in Fidelias. Butcher has created a great people in the Marat – savages that have trained ostrich-like birds to do their bidding, and we even get to see some flying knights in Furies of Calderon.
Magic in Furies of Calderon is something that everyone just has by their nature of being human. Each individual has a connection with some element of nature: some draw from the air and storms, others from the earth, and others still from water. It was interesting to read Furies of Calderon and immediately follow up by reading Sanderson’s The Way of Kings; these are two novels that contain storms that are more harsh than normal, and both have a connection to the magic system, Sanderson’s albeit a bit more inventive.
Furies of Calderon moves along at a good pace; I did not once feel like the novel was dragging. There are plenty of action sequences, and the plot moves along like a good epic fantasy should: characters identify problems, embark on adventures to resolve said problems, and team up with other forces to accomplish goals that might not have been possible to accomplish alone. It seems that Butcher’s craft that has been honed writing urban mystery novels has translated well, at least in format, to the epic fantasy genre.
Furies of Calderon is a good stand-alone novel. The main character Tavi starts out with many doubts, and by the end of the novel he has a real sense of accomplishment. In this, Furies of Calderon works well as a self-contained novel, but does leave the door open for future tales, as he has already demonstrated by publishing five subsequent volumes in the series.
For me, Furies of Calderon just didn’t pack that extra punch that pushes some fantasy novels into that upper tier. Being Butcher’s first time out in the epic fantasy genre, this may have been the intent: get a good, solid first novel out there to serve as the foundation for future volumes where he’ll be able to take more risks and be a bit more inventive in the epic fantasy genre. I’ll be interested in seeing where he takes the series next, and if he ups the ante with the following books in the Codex Alera series.
You can purchase Furies of Calderon over at Amazon.com.