The Codex Alera is a fantasy series written by Jim Butcher author of other such series like The Dresdan Files. This series is a mixture of ancient Rome life, mythology and warfare and the elements come to life. This series which takes place in a mythical realm called Alera follows the life of a young boy named Tavi as he grows and travels across the realm. The realm of Alera is based strongly on the ancient Roman empire in its culture, design, social structure and warfare techniques. The one exception to this is the addition of elemental creatures called furies.
The furies in this storyline are physical controllable manifestations of the elements, earth, air, water, metal, wood, fire. These furies permeate and drive the storyline through out the whole series and provide a interesting backdrop on which the Tavi's story plays out. Everyone in the story has some control over one if not several of these furies. This control give them the ability to control the natural elements to various degrees. This power over the elements causes a class stratification to form in Aleran society with the most powerful High Lords and the First Lord at the top and the lowly relatively weak slaves and freeman at the bottom.
Now when I say everyone has control of furies I mean everyone. The only exception to this is young Tavi the main character around which the story evolves. He is considered a “freak” in Aleran society to be shunned by some, hated by others and pitied by all. This lack of furies gives young Tavi his drive to make something of himself in a society where all power and wealth is based on how many furies you control and how powerful they make you.
The Codex Alera is a richly detailed and well written storyline that progress smoothly from book to book despite the jump in months and years that take place between them. How the author interweaves the various characters like Tavi, his aunt Isana and the First Lord as well as the various peoples that inhabit this world like the Icemen, Canim and my favorite the Marat is well done. How they meet and the way they interact is plausible and enjoyable to read. How each character and culture develops over the course of the series is excellent with most of them evolving in ways you do not expect or even understand at first.
How he builds the world that all these characters live in is just a treat. Its is all done through first person experiences and descriptions that really bring out the detail of each location. When I first read the novels is was so easy form me to picture the Princeps Memorium, Calderon Valley and what the capital Alera Imperia would actually look like. I have read very few authors that can so easily capture my imagination and put it in the world I am reading.
My of my favorite things about the series are the battle scenes. With the power of the furies and the discipline of a Roman legion the havoc that the author wrecks in the realm of Alera is astounding. The series begin with the realm on the cusp of a civil war in which city state would be pitted against city state. The civil war and the battle for survival of the realm that follows is brilliantly written with amazing victories, awful defeats and heart wrenching last stands intermixed through out the story. I really enjoy how the author combined traditional roman battle tactics like the shield wall with the power of the furies . This power which lets their knights fly, burn their enemies to ash or to turn the ground at there feet against them. This power however is not always enough though against the enemies that Tavi and Alera must face. Time and again Tavi uses his wits and raw courage to save himself and Alera as he is thrust into center stage in much of this conflict by his desire to prove something and when others use him for there own aims.
Overall the series is excellent depiction of a fantasy world mired in war, political intrigue, and long suffering lower class just waiting to change the world. If you are are a fan of well written broad in scope fantasy with rousing and inspirational battle sequences and great characters then the Codex Alera is the series for you. It can be found at most major bookstores, library’s and online.
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(price as of Apr 9, 2016)