Jim Butcher is an author oft-suggested by those who find out the type of books I like. For some reason, however, I’ve never been drawn to his work. When my fiance began reading Furies of Calderon, a early work of Butcher’s, I felt a little intrigued and took a dive in order to, at the very least, incite book discussions. The world of Calderon sees nature spirits called furies bonded with humans to aid work and play. Dealing in Romanesque settings blended with familiar sword and sorcery elements, the book isn’t something completely unexpected. The characters and basic story are intriguing, but Butcher seems to draw out certain parts. There’s a little too much ponderous political intrigue for my tastes, as well. Overall, I call this a READ WITH CAUTION, as most fantasy readers would probably enjoy it enough to not regret having delved into this world. I intend to read the second book at least, because while it isn’t the best series start I’ve read, I do think spending more time in this world could be entertaining.
Here, There Be Spoilers
Butcher’s Furies of Calderon follows a few different points of view, including Amara the cursor and Tavi, a young boy living in rural lands. Amara finds her teacher to be a traitor and barely escapes to a rural farming community, where trouble follows her to an already troubled stead-holt. Tavi winds up in the midst of this, and the two must warn the local garrison and king of an impending attack by a brutally savage people known as the Marat. There are wild wind storms, “fury crafting” of all sorts (think of a somewhat modified Avatar: The Last Airbender flair), and dramatic battles.
The characters were generally likable, although the main protagonist was a bit transparent and overly special. Tavi lives with his aunt and her brother, and is the only member of their race in memory to not have access to the wild spirits that bond with people like ethereal Pokemon. As such, life is a bit harder for him. It’s immediately obvious that he is going to have a special talent or significance. While this isn’t bad, it was an expectation that I read the book with, and probably colored some of my opinion of it.
I didn’t have much of a problem with many of the characters, aside from a little too much hand-wringing on the part of many of the females. Even though none of the women seemed phoned in or otherwise weak, they were either crazy enough to make Lady Macbeth take a step back, or too caught up in thought to act quickly. I think Butcher’s style of drawing out certain scenes added to this feeling. Some of the males felt this way as well, but not nearly to the same extent.
The overall story is fairly simple, but catches your attention enough. The pacing is a bit jarring, and Butcher seems to enjoy reaching a crescendo in action, then switching to another character and bringing them to that point as well before moving forward. While this isn’t a bad tactic when used sparingly, it was a frequent occurrence here and made me want to yell “Oh, come on!” to the book once or twice.
While mostly unremarkable, Furies of Calderon is an entertaining look at sword and sorcery with some flair that isn’t quite common fare in the fantasy world. Think of it as a TV show that wouldn’t air during prime time, but you’d still watch when you caught it on while flipping through channels. Some of you might binge watch it, others might run away. As such, this series opener rests squarely in the READ WITH CAUTION category.