I'm not sticking strictly to 'urban' fantasy books, or even those set in modern times. FYI. Basically, this is just me telling you about fantasy novels/series that are *way* better than anything LKH has ever written. So, you know, *everything* else that's ever been written.
What? I'm not bitter. Stop shaking your head at me!
For today's entertainment, I present to you the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher.
Codex Alera is a six book series that is complete, so if you pick it up you at least know that you can read it from beginning to end without the gnawing, desperate need for *more*, *right now* that has to wait to be fulfilled for a year or two until the next book comes out. Not that that's not it's own brand of fun, mind you, but it's also insanity inducing. The series is more along the lines of high fantasy than anything else.
Okay, so Codex Alera is set on a world called Carna, where several races live in less than harmonious fashion. The Alerans are the main power on Carna and are essentially human but for the fact that each and every one of them has access to great powers through their relationships with elemental creatures known as Furies.
Furies live in everything and can be manipulated into different forms and uses. They've been categorised by the Alerans based on what elements they live in, so you have six different types: earth, wood, fire, air, water, and metal. Some of the furies are tiny and can't be seen, it takes a gathering up of a lot of this type in order to effect any change on the environment. Others are larger and can manifest themselves in various forms. They can cause real damage, when they put their minds to it, or when they're used to do so by an Aleran controlling them. There are also things called the Great Furies which, as only makes sense, are very old, very big, very powerful furies. Most people don't realize that they even exist, though they swear by them. It's more of a cultural habit than anything else.
The story starts in the Calderon Valley, a small and peaceful section of Alera along the border between Alera and their barbarian neighbors the Marat. Tavi is a small for his age apprentice shepherd who has been raised in the Valley by his Aunt Isana and Uncle Bernard (brother and sister, not a couple). He is quick and clever, though still very much a young man who does stupid things to impress girls, and Tavi is the only Aleran *ever* to not have any furies at all.
While out trying to recapture his Uncle Bernard's sheep, who were allowed to wander away and get lost while Tavi was off trying to impress that girl, Tavi is sucked into a plot to topple the First Lord of Alera. He finds himself trapped alone but for a scarred and unreliable slave in the land of the Marat, the people who had attacked and slaughtered the Princeps, the heir to the throne of Alera, years before and who look to be willing to repeat the performance on the First Lord.
Tavi has to use his brains to find a way to escape with his life in order to bring help to his family and the other people in the Valley and to ultimately help save the Empire.
This is just the first book and I'm not going to lie, it gets better and better as the series goes on.
One of my absolutely favorite things about this series is that it features a great variety of people being both good and evil without making one species *evil*. There are good and bad characters in all the different cultures that live on Carna.
I also love that the women are portrayed as being just as strong as the men. Yes, in Aleran society (which is based on and descended from ancient Roman culture), there are expected roles but there are women throughout the series who defy those roles and are working to gain equality with the men.
He shrugged beneath the blanket. “I can’t explain it. We just—we don’t
treat our women the same way we do our men.”
“That’s stupid,” said
There is some violence, of course, this is a high fantasy swords and armour kind of story after all, but no sexual content. Some characters, over the course of the series, are clearly pairing off and *having* sex, but it's all off screen.
Possible trigger warnings: There is discussion of slavery as it is legal and a large part of the Aleran economy. There is also use of mind control and the fall out from that, the damage that it does to a persons psyche as well as torture. My biggest warning would be that there is mention of rape and intention of certain characters to rape others. Nothing of the sort happens on screen however, and even the references are veiled and non-graphic.
I hate that these are so short but I really don't want to give away plot points and twists.