Being a big fan of The Dresden Files series, a classicist and fantasy nerd I was quite looking forward to the Roman Empire-esque series by Jim Butcher. I mean with all those things about me, how could I not love it?!
Well, unfortunately, I couldn’t.
“In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies-elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal-fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos-when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies-Tavi’s simple courage will turn the tides of war.”
Sounds good enough, right? Some nice elemental magic with intrigue, war and your very home at stake! Even with all that, I never really felt like anything was properly at risk, maybe it’s because I never connected all that well with the characters.
Part of this lack of connection could potentially have been the audiobook reading, coupled with some of the characters within the book purely being there to provide a minute obstacle to wherever the plot needed to go.
For example, there were a couple of soldiers stopping a couple of main characters from getting past them when they very dearly needed to. These soldiers were just unnecessarily rude, arrogant and ignorant. The point was to show that they were ‘green’ soldiers and not very disciplined at that. But surely there are better ways to show that than refusing to let the leader of a town through the gates and making leering sexual comments at the girl with him? Perhaps if they were unsure of the procedures or unwilling to let strangers into the fort?
These two weren’t the only characters who I felt unreasonably infuriated by, and there were simply no redeeming features for those characters who were so. It seemed to me that they were in there purely to illicit reaction and show that the view of the soldiers and city-boys, that most of the protagonists were country bumpkins, was foolish. But then alongside that this contrast became a fallacy of itself, there were few people who were competent who didn’t come from the wild outskirts.
The story itself seems like it was sound, but then also got away from itself for a while and I found myself drifting away from why this was supposed to be a huge proble.
This coupled itself with the fact that I found that I was guessing plot twists or just predicting where the story was going ahead of time, which left me feeling more like I was just going through the motions rather than sitting on the edge of my seat and waiting. So I also felt like I knew how they were going to solve the problems that were presented in it. “Oh, that huge big ol’ problem X? Well obviously this character is going to do Y which means X won’t be a problem.” (And that’s what happened) Again, this happened at the end of the book as well and I was just sat waiting for the timer to run out on what you knew was going to happen.
I really am not sure if I’d like it any more if I had read it rather than listened to it, but there we are. A decent enough distraction, I think, but should probably be billed as YA fiction at the very least. I know that a lot of people have enjoyed this book greatly and the first couple of chapters are available on Jim Butcher’s website, so do take a look and see if they’re your thing.