Sunday, 30 October 2011

Review: Cursor’s Fury: Codex Alera 3, by Jim Butcher

Set three years after the previous book (and without the blank lines between paragraphs that book 2 had), Tavi has been working on ancient ruins with Magnus (a teacher referred to in book 2) when he gets called to join a new legion. Unlike most legions its men are from across the whole country rather than from a area, and it’s meant to be more of a symbol of unity than an immediate fighting force.

Until, of course, the civil war that had been quietly brewing suddenly explodes and the legion gets thrust into action.

There’s more excitement and rapid development earlier on in the book, which I enjoyed very much, with a number of twists and turns. To a certain extent the latter half runs along more predictable lines and, generally, the plot slows a little.

Mr. Butcher does very well to square the slight circle of a legion-style military unit in a world that’s probably halfway between feudal and republican (in the Ancient Roman sense of the word). Tribunes are now appointed rather than elected, and each has specific duties (logistics, for example) and a number of deputies. Tavi’s a logistical subtribune, whose typical day is spent inspecting latrines. The only minor gripe I have is that whilst almost all names are Roman or Romanesque ‘Schultz’ seems a bit out of place.

The ongoing character development of Tavi is a plus point of the series, and it’s also nice that each book genuinely moves along the unstable political situation and edges closer to an all-out power struggle.

A few more major deaths would have gone down well. Not necessarily on a George RR Martin level of mass slaughter, but it adds dramatic tension when there’s a real chance a protagonist or main character might get killed.

The major villain of the piece is less subtle and three-dimensional than the Aquitaines, but his prime job is to be universally loathed, which he achieves pretty well.

Overall, I liked Cursor’s Fury, particularly the cunning revelation at the end (and I’m not referring to frisky time with Kitai). The major characters continue to be developed in complex and interesting ways, and it was nice to see one or two Canim make a return.

That’s three in a row I’ve read fairly rapidly, and there are a few more books to read in the Codex Alera. I think I’ll read the first Mistborn book and give myself a break so that book 4’s a bit fresher.


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