|Jim Butcher has made his name writing gritty urban fantasy
The Furies of Calderon is certainly not urban, but it is fantasy,
high fantasy. The First Lord of Alera is the last of his line, and the sharks are starting
to circle. As he has not nominated a successor, the situation is ripe for civil war. But
the First Lord is not yet dead, and he has two advantages. One is the Imperial Secret
Police, or Cursors, who have almost unlimited power delegated to them to thwart enemies of
the state. The other is that in a country where almost everybody controls at least one
fury, or spirit, he not only controls stronger spirits, but has greater control over them.
One of his Cursors, Amara, has been sent to ascertain the level of threat a rumour
contains. She discovers not only a plot but also traitors in the guise of her instructor.
She escapes from almost certain death, manages to report her findings and is then sent to
the other side of the realm to determine if another rumour is true. Meanwhile, her former
instructor and his co-conspirators decide to not only pursue her, but also to accelerate
their plans to depose the First Lord.
Amara lands in the Calderon Valley, where a young lad, Tavi, lives. Tavi is one of the
few who have no furies at their beck and call, so must rely on his wits. He is hoping to
earn enough money to go to the Academy in the capital, where his furyless condition is
less of a handicap than in the frontier of Calderon Valley. With the arrival of Amara and
her pursuers, coupled with the disaster of losing some sheep (due to his being diverted
from his primary task by a girl), this all starts to look like a pipe dream.
For the most part, Butchers characters are believable, if prone in one or two
instances to thinking only about the here and now. Butcher has an easy and fluent style,
so naturally the book is a page-turner, and I found myself drawn into a world that had its
share of improbable coincidences, but was better drawn than many fantasies. The series, to
judge from the titles, would appear to follow the career of the maturing Tavi. Butcher has
the sense to allow enough of the villains to escape at the end to provide the young hero
with nemeses that may well appear in future volumes. Plus there are a smattering of stray
love interests to keep the boy diverted from his studies, if that should be part of the
plot. I look forward to reading future volumes, and hope they hold up as well as this