Remember, kids. Only you can prevent wildfires.
Academ's Fury (Codex Alera, #2)
Academ's Fury and its sequel, Cursor's Fury, are my two favourite books in the Codex Alera series. Academ's Fury was actually the first book I read in the series; if I had started with Furies of Calderon, I don't think I would have been hooked. But Academ's Fury captures the best aspects of a good epic fantasy novel: magic, scary monsters, strong characters, political intrigue, and more.
The series centers around a set of citizens of Alera. The culture of Alera is essentially Roman, but with a twist: all Alerans have furycraft magical power over the elements. Furycraft is deeply embedded into the mechanics of society: roads are built to be traveled quickly using metalcraft, firecraft is used for all forms of illumination, and windcraft allows fast transportation via flight. Academ's Fury takes place about two years after the events in Furies of Calderon. Although the Alerans now have a tenuous peace with their neighbors, the cannibalistic Marat barbarians, more trouble looms on the horizon. In the previous book, the young Aleran Tavi got pulled into a competition with the Marat girl Kitai that culminated in him burning down a portion of the creepy, poisonous Wax Forest. And unfortunately, his actions awoke a sleeping menace of the forest. Oops.
The Vord, a creepy-crawly bug race, are awake and ready to take on and destroy all other forms of life. Taken together, Codex Alera and The Dresden Files contain just about every type of horror trope out there. TDF has vampires (lots of them!) ghosts who can get into your mind and eat you from the inside, werewolves, sorcerers who rip your heart out of your body, skinwalkers who change form, fallen angels with metal hair, half-snake bodies, or ambulatory shadows, zombies, necromancers, movie monsters come to life, demons that lurk in the shadows and hunt the living... the list goes on and on. Alera contributes barbarians who eat you while you are alive, wolfmen, wolfmen who can call down acid octopi from the sky, creepy crawly chitinous buggie Vord, evil attack knight Vord, evil queen Vord, collars that can control your every action, etc. Absolutely none of the monsters of TDF scare me, and most of those in Codex Alera leave me untouched. There is one exception: the Vord Takers. These are buglike (or crowlike, depending on the book) beasties who crawl into your ear while you sleep, nestle into your brain, take you over, and turn you into a zombie. When I read this book, all through the night, I kept waking up with a start and checking my ears.
Still unwitting of the new danger he has caused, Tavi has discovered that his dream of attending the academy in Alera Imperia isn't exactly what he had hoped. He is still a furyless freak, and he has discovered that an academy that teaches furycraft isn't exactly kind to his disability. Busy with his tasks as page to the First Lord of Alera and secret training as a Cursor to the First Lord, Tavi has little time to mope. The First Lord has been taken ill, and with the precarious political climate and the Winter's End festivities in full swing, there couldn't be a worse time for it. To add to the problem, the wolflike Canim ambassador is acting oddly (and agressively), Isana has come to request aid and is trying to reach the First Lord through Tavi, and another classmate is more than ready to act upon a grudge against Tavi. And to top it all, it's exam time.
The book is a very fun and exhilarating ride, full of humor, fun, danger, and interesting characters. There are several complex and entertaining evil characters, and the side characters are engaging and well-drawn. In addition, this book introduces some new major cast members, in particular, Max. Max is Tavi's irreverent, hypermasculine, womanizing, and very entertaining friend. Basically, whenever he walks into the room, no matter what the mood might have been before, it just moved towards slapstick comedy. Despite the fact I typically despise characters with his traits, I really like Max. He's just too much fun.
Again, Butcher has a cast with several quite strong and complex female characters. Unfortunately, Isana, Tavi's 'aunt', has a rather large role, and I find her boring, hypocritical, and irritating. However, the rest of the cast makes up for it. Amara is less entertaining than usual, but we get to meet the not particularly placid Lady Placida, and get more interactions with the deliciously ever-scheming Invidia. Kitai, badassery incarnate, also makes an appearance. However, I wish Butcher would get it out of his head that all every woman secretly wants is to make babies. Seriously. Not every character needs to be a walking-womb-wannabe. In the previous book, Isana spends a lot of time
whining musing about how no one believed she could have children. Now Amara spends half her character time angsting about her inability to have children. For some variety, Isana's companion Sarai discusses her secret heartache: losing her children and her ability to...wait for it.... make more babies! I don't mind one character obsessing over having a child, but it seems like every female in the series obsesses over it. Fortunately, Kitai and Invidia are (currently) immune from the baby blues.
Overall, a very fun book, and a much better story than Furies of Calderon. It also sets up the stage for my favorite of the series: Cursor's Fury.