The Codex Alera

I read something once where Jim Butcher explained that his first “swords and sorcery” book left much to be desired. I don’t know what it was called, let alone have a chance to read it, but what he’s published since then has definitely piqued my interest.


This week, I’m talking about the Codex Alera, a six-volume book series that starts with Furies of Calderon. The story is about Tavi, a young Aleran, who aside from his wits is otherwise relatively unremarkable. Of course, that’s what makes him so special. Most of the population of Alera has ongoing working relationships with one or more elemental “furies”, that is, water, fire, wood, earth, metal, or air. Despite coming from a frontier community where they make use of furies just to survive, Tavi grew up with none of those abilities. After a near-death adventure which he and a new acquaintance narrowly survive, he finds himself admitted to the school in Alera’s central capital to learn about diplomacy, warfare, and other skills deemed valuable to the nobility, which he employs counter to everyone’s expectations.

alera map

About half way through the series, the reader finds out that there’s more to Tavi than meets the eye, after which everything for him and his family changes. It was beautiful to watch him try to balance every aspect of what faced him after that. I wish I could say more, but it’s such a major plot element, that I don’t want to spoil it for new readers!

As a fan of fantasy novels from a young age, I really enjoyed this series, especially coming to it by way of another one of Mr Butcher’s series (which I’ll likely be addressing later). I remember reading once that his inspiration for the furies was taken from other stories that feature elemental creatures, like Pokemon. I think one of the greatest things about this series, though, is to see a character who is missing something that everyone takes for granted, explore other aspects of himself to find the strength to work around it.

(in case anyone was wondering, this series is where my current online handle comes from)

Rating: 5th Gear

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