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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The plot thickens, November 4, 2009
This review is from: Academ's Fury (Codex Alera, Book 2) (Hardcover)
You could tell that Jim Butcher was still finding his legs in the Swords and Horses Fantasy genre with his first effort, Furies of Calderon. You could still see through the text straight to the writers who he acknowledges influenced him in many parts. However, throughout that offering you could "hear" Butcher's voice taking center stage, so that by the end it felt like a Jim Butcher novel. Not a Jim Butcher trying his hand at Tolkien novel.

Thus, by the second book of the Codex Alera, we find that the series has begun to take on a life of its own and becomes a legitimate endeavor for Butcher. Beginning with Academ's Fury, the series really takes off and distinguishes itself as a rich and intriguing new Fantasy world. This is due largely to two reasons: the author introduces us to the villain of the saga, The Vord, and the main character, Tavi, really takes center stage for the first time.

Prior to this book, and even then I would say prior to halfway through this book, Tavi has been the main actor in an ensemble piece. While nominally the main character, there really was not much in the way of page time to distinguish him as such. While not as much time was dedicated to a single character, save perhaps Amara, you could still go many pages and chapters before coming back to Tavi. This was necessary to create the world and give it depth, make you form attachments to the various characters moving forward. However, Tavi is easily the most interesting character in the saga, so Butcher dedicating more time to him in Academ's Fury is a very welcome change. While I like Bernard, Amara, Isana and Fidelias, none of them grab me the way that Tavi's character does. Though I admit he is perhaps at an advantage, as the characters he interacts with: Gaius, Araris, Sir Miles, Maximus and Kitai, are all some of the better ones in the series.

It works so well, I am sure intentionally, because this is also the "becoming a man" moment in the saga for Tavi. While he was the hero of Second Calderon in the first book, that was more of a "coming of age" kinda tale. At the end of that people still viewed him as a precocious kid who needed to be cared for because he was without his Furies. However, by the end of Academ's Fury, even his superiors have to stop themselves from referring to him as a "kid" and instead acknowledge him as a Man.

As the Marat Barbarian Doroga says, "Tavi does things big." So it is no surprise that Tavi's adventure in the Wax Forest in FoC awakened The Vord, a menace so great it has become fireside nightmare stories even to the Marat. Doroga and Kitai discover the Vord have left their valley, and pursue them. The Marat are able to destroy one Vord Queen's nest at great loss of life, but he comes to warn Alera that the other two have taken root within the Realm. While Bernard and Amara join with Doroga to assault the one in the Calderon Valley, Isana goes to the Capital to try and warn Gaius and Tavi. Meanwhile, Tavi, the Academ, is in training to become a Cursor when all hell breaks loose, again, and he is the only one who can save the day, again.

Just as in the first book when Butcher introduced the Marat as the primary threat, but teased the Vord as well, in Academ's Fury Butcher fully makes The Vord the primary threat, but also teases The Canim: A sentient Wolf-like race who have been at war with Alera for hundreds of years. Ambassador Varg is the Doroga of the second book: He is a leader of a race hostile to Alerans, but comes to respect Tavi's courage, cleverness and honor. While he plays a key role in this book, you also can tell that he will be instrumental somewhere down the line in later books as well, just as you knew Doroga would be.

Finally, the amount of politics is much higher in this book, much more complex than the previous book. While this does an admirable job of distinguishing it from FoC, elevating the age level a bit, it is one of the dragging points in the novel. I was never as interested in Isana as much in this book, though I did enjoy her scenes with Lady Aquitaine (who just gets better from the first book). I also felt that Doroga and Walker just totally steal the show away from Bernard and Amara, who were really at their most boring in this book. I like the story that revolves around them, but I felt that it was interesting more because of the Vord, Doroga and Walker than Bernard and Amara. However, fully immersing us in the Politics creates a good segueway into the events of the following books, where they are more seamlessly integrated.

In all this is a fine follow-up to Furies of Calderon and an even better lead-in to the rest of the series. Tavi could only be a child hero so long, and this book really makes the transition flawlessly to his taking the reigns as the primary action star of the saga as well. We get even more hints at his destiny and his secret identity and past, and are made to realize that whatever happens in the future, Tavi is going to be at the forefront trying to hold things together. The last 150 pages really fly by, paying off even some of the more tedious elements earlier in the book before it really gets in gear. Another solid entry in this fine saga.

469 HC pages 4.5 out of 5 stars
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