“Codex Alera” by Jim Butcher

Codex Alera is a six part fantasy series by Jim Butcher – I’ve reviewed the first two parts separately (Furies of Calderon, Academ’s Fury), but I read the rest of the series too fast – they all blur into each other. So here’s a rather unconventional bullet-point review of the whole series.

  • I discovered after reading the series that it was based off of the legend of the lost Roman legion – Alerans are supposed to be their descendants, so that dismisses my criticism about the series being too much like Earth. I found it hard to love the setting, though, and I can’t pinpoint why.
  • Tavi’s character development makes sense, and I like the way he grows, but some decisions seemed to made way too abruptly, and I couldn’t quite see the motivation behind them. He also adjusts really well to court/political life after being a shepherd for most of his life.
  • I still hate the titles of these books – they’re huge spoilers.
  • Way too much action! I found myself copiously skimming the battle scenes – there are a lot of these, and often, different characters are in separate but simultaneous battles and the point of view switches between them. People also get kidnapped way too easily, and then have to escape, and the entire population of Alera gets decimated way too often in the climax of each book. Where are they getting all these fighting men from?
  • Maybe I didn’t love the setting because it didn’t seem fully fleshed out because of all the action?
  • I wish Cursor’s Fury was about Tavi being a Cursor and not about him leading his legion. Spies are way more interesting than soldiers.
  • Butcher is not great at political intrigue – much of it is overt, and the more complex issues just get ignored (for example, in First Lord’s Fury, there’s a lot of worrying about Tavi and Kitai getting married and the political astuteness of it – in the end, they just get married with no questions asked?)
  • Also, the Vord are basically the Borg, and not even the good kind – the kind after they jumped the shark, the kind with a queen that wants to seduce Data (thanks, Star Trek: First Contact.) And the Canim are basically Klingons. Boring, especially for a six book series! I’m not sure if the Marat were much better, but at least they’re a fantasy stereotype and not a sci-fi stereotype. Although, it was kind of cool to have an enemy that wanted to replicate rather than be evil and hateful.

Butcher is a good writer, and that kept me going through the series – the first books especially had promise, but the payoff wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t call these bad books, but I wouldn’t say there were great either.

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #1)
Ace Books, 2004 | Buy the book

Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #2)
Ace Books, 2005 | Buy the book

Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #3)
Ace Books, 2006 | Buy the book

Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #4)
Ace Books, 2007 | Buy the book

Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #5)
Ace Books, 2008 | Buy the book

First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera, #6)
Ace Books, 2009 | Buy the book

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