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Bookends: The Tale of the Lost Legion is Concluded December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Tale of the Lost Legion is Concluded

By Dan Davidson

October 16, 2013

– 875 words –

Princeps’ FuryPrincep's Fury

By Jim Butcher

Ace

640 pages

$1.50

First Lord’s Fury

By Jim Butcher

Ace

First Lord's Fury

784 pages

$12.50

At some point, close to 2000 years ago, a Roman legion and its camp followers fell through one of those cracks in the world that fantasy writers love and ended up in a strange place where elemental forces embodying aspects of water, earth, wood, fire, air and metal were real psychic forces. Over time the descendants of the original Romans developed the ability to control these furies, as they called them, and that became the basis of their ability to establish themselves as the primary military and political force on the continent that they came to call Alera.

There are other races on this world, and it is suggested that none of them are actually native to it. The Alerans hold off the mysterious Icemen in the North and the more humanoid Marat, who occasionally invade from a nearby land mass connected by a land bridge. From across the water come the Canim, anthropomorphic wolf-like creatures who mostly keep to themselves until they are threatened in their homeland by what seem to be the latest arrivals from elsewhere, the shapeshifting, hive-minded Vord.

During the first four books in this limited series, we have been following the life of Tavi, a country shepherd boy who, in the best traditions of classical myth, really has no idea who he really is or what he is capable of. It seems the only special thing about him is that he has never shown signs of having furycraft. This has meant that he has grown up thinking outside the box that most Alerans consider to be normal. He has become clever, shrewd and capable of great things.

By the time we get to the fifth book, Tavi has discovered that he is really Gaius Octavian, son of the murdered heir to First Lord Gaius Sextus. He has discovered that his aunt is really his mother, and that she has been using her watercrafting abilities to retard his own physical and psychic development in order to keep him safe from people who might want to kill him if they knew who he really was.

He has been to school in the capital and has become a capable leader in the legions. Away from his mother’s crafting he has grown like a weed and begun to develop the skills he had never had as a boy. By the fourth book he has saved the realm from an insurrection and arranged a truce with the Canim invaders, whom he has realized are fleeing the scourge of the Vord in their own lands. And he has learned who he really is.

The Vord it seems, were dormant until Tavi and the Marat girl Kitai accidentally triggered the awakening of their Queen years before. She seems to have been tainted by her contact with them and is unable to produce daughter queens. They sense her diference and try to kill her as soon as they mature. Oddly, she thinks of Tavi and Kitai as her parents in a very twisted way.

The narrative in the last two books of the Codex Alera series becomes more complicated as Butcher has to juggle an increasingly complex mixture of characters. As Tavi grows in power and abilities it becomes necessary for us to see him as others see him rather than simply following his point of view. Then too, there are complex plots unfolding on both continents, and while Tavi is across the sea assisting the Canim in their losing struggle with the Vord, his Uncle Bernard and Aunt Amara are involved in a secret mission behind enemy (Vord) lines and his mother, Isana, is engaging in some complicated diplomacy in the north.

In the final book of the series we even spend some time with the Vord Queen, seeing her through the eyes of some of the people she has captured. The Vord are like a virus, living only to reproduce. They have the ability to take over the bodies of their enemies and can breed warriors that mimic the abilities of those against whom they are fighting.  Their consciousness and strategy are controlled through the agency of the Queen. When first encountered they are merely a physical threat, but they learn furycrafting as the years pass and become an implacable foe.

Much of the last book is taken up with battles and combat of a mass and individual nature, but there is still space for a great deal more personal development of the major characters.

The style and pacing here is much different from the first person noir presentation that Butcher has used for his urban fantasy Dresden Files series. What the two series have in common is a lot of action leavened by a dry humour. Tavi’s has been a coming of age story with a lot of connections to classical mythology, cleverly altered to an otherworldly setting.

Unlike some series that seem to go one forever (as you listening, George Martin?) this one did manage to wrap up an extended story in just over 2800 pages.

-30-

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