I'm so glad this was good! Most books just don't grab me like FURIES OF CALDERON did.
For thousands of years the people of Alera have been strong and united against the threat of the aggressive races surrounding them. But now their land is in political turmoil. Their leader is getting old and no longer has an heir. Other High Lords are power hungry and looking to take advantage of any weakness.
All the people of Alera practice furycrafting and use it in their daily work. They bond with an elemental fury when they are young, but Tavi seems to be the exception. Tavi is a 15-year-old boy who lives in the Calderon Valley with his Aunt Isana, who is bonded to a water fury, and her brother Bernard, who is bonded to an earth fury. He's had a good and loving upbringing, but he is also aware that others look at him as a kind of freak. To have no fury...he could never find a job in which someone with a fury wouldn't excel more. But Tavi has his secret dream of making money to go to the Academy, a place where it's intelligence that counts most.
One simple promise takes Tavi and his Uncle Bernard into the wrong place at the wrong time and makes him a target that must be eliminated.
Amara, meanwhile, is on her first mission as a trained Cursor with her teacher. They are to infiltrate a camp posing as a slave and a smuggler, respectively, to find out if an insurrection is in the making and get proof. But betrayal and capture await her, and it soon becomes a struggle for survival for Amara and Tavi and the people who care for them.
I've enjoyed all of Jim Butcher's contemporary fantasy books--a total thrill ride--but haven't been reading as much epic fantasy. Once I started FURIES OF CALDERON, however, I didn't want to stop. The plot never had a dull moment. I felt more emotionally involved in this story than with his other books, and I came to care about many of the characters. None of them are one-dimensional. Tavi and Amara are courageous and loyal, but you even get to know the traitorous enemies and see good in some of them.
The story had me in its grip so much that I set a personal record of staying up until 4:00 a.m. reading it! Not only that, but the battle at the end (reminiscent, in my mind, of the huge battle for the castle in the Lord of the Rings movie) had me biting my nails to the quick (which I noticed only when it was too late!)
And to add to my pleasure, there is a romance that develops between Amara and Tavi's uncle, Bernard, that is very believable and satisfying. Also, there is possibly something going on with Tavi that may progress in another book.
I've left out huge amounts of plot that I could never begin to find room for and don't want to give away. I just want to say FURIES OF CALDERON was a joy to read from beginning to end. The book is complete in itself with some threads left hanging for completion in another book. A high recommend from me!!--Linda (1 Nov 04)