The latest Codex Alera book is arguably the best in this excellent series. I am a big Jim Butcher fan and have been going back and forth as to what his better series is, Dresden or Alera. This most recent Alera book definitely has improved Alera's standing in the race.
I admit I was slightly disappointed in Captain's Fury (still a 4 star book) due to the fact that I felt it was the most "cliched" book in the series. One of the reasons I like Jim Butcher so much is after years of reading Fantasy, he has been able to show me something new and exciting in the genre.
In Dresden it is the Urban Fantasy and Alera utilizes the Roman Empire as a setting. However, Captains Fury felt too much like a synthesis of other great fantasy stories (like LotR). I just felt that I knew what was coming in Captain's Fury and was never surprised when things turned out as they did.
Not so with Princep's Fury. This book really takes the series to a new height and sets up what promises to be an amazing final chapter.
I must say, again, that I am a bit tired of Amazon listing its books with inflated page numbers. PR is only 386 pages instead of 400 ( a minor quibble, but I dont understand why they always seem to list books as being larger than they are?), but there is barely any downtime in the entire novel, almost entirely action-packed with little exposition or monologuing.
What I was very impressed with was Butcher's ability to provide more background and surprises on Septimus and his death, while simultaneously advancing the story in the present. The ability to weave in dangling plot elements while advancing the current plot is tricky, but Butcher pulls it off with his usual deft skill.
I do not like to give book reports in reviews, so I do not wish to explicate the plot and give a rundown. Suffice to say that Princep's Fury advances the plot on all fronts: Tavi and the Canim, Amara and the First Lord, The Vord, Isana and Septimus, as well as providing a nice look into the War at the Shieldwall with the Icemen and Antillar Raucus (an excellent character addition to the series).
Tavi is at his usual cunning best. The cleverest Aleran in centuries once again proves why he is so compelling and why Men are willing to follow him into one perilous situation after another.
The Canim and Icemen are both explored in depth in this one, and they are every bit as interesting and cool as you expected (or knew) them to be. Even the Vord are evolved to a point where they are still the enemy you know, without being rote or boring, but significantly different enough to make the reader feel as if he/she never really "knew" them as well as he/she thought they did.
What is also impressive is that every character is where they SHOULD be, no one seems at any point to be out of place or stick out. All the main characters are given roles that meet their potential and do not diminish their potency. It takes true literary skill to make the reader feel as if every character is in their proper role and acting according to their established character. Butcher never "reaches", never tries to fit an extra chapter in here or there just to have more about one character or another.
While it is the shortest book in the series, it is in many ways the best. I do not think it would have worked as well had he not written the other four books so well to set this one up, but it still manages to deliver on all the potential the previous books promised. The brevity also makes this one a real page turner, as a previous reviewer has mentioned. I stayed up reading for 5 hours straight once I got to a certain point because I just could NOT wait til morning to see what transpired. How would Tavi or Isana or Gaius get out of this situation? What would they do next? I could not stop turning pages to answer these burning questions, and I was never disappointed when I finally did get there. By the end I was left so eager for the next installment I regretted reading it so fast with the prospect of another YEAR to wait to follow up on the final end note!!!!
Being a History major in college and having a particular affinity for Rome, this series is just sensational to me. It has become everything I would expect and hope for from a Fantasy series set in the Roman Empire. The parallels between Gaius Sextus and Caesar and Octavian and (duh Octavian/Augustus) are very striking, and I am impressed that Jim is able to incorporate these elements without making it seem like a History lesson. If you know Rome, it is an added bonus, if not it is still an excellent Fantasy series with fresh new ideas and take on the genre.
I have read hundreds of Fantasy books by now, but Codex Alera definitely holds its own against ANY non-Tolkien (the undisputed King of Fantasy for my money) Fantasy I have read, and while I am excited for the next installment, I am also a bit sad that it will likely be the last entry in this amazing world.
Well worth the price of admission at any cost, be sure you do not miss out on what is the BEST "Swords and Horses" (Butcher's description of the Genre) Fantasy going right now.
386 HC pages 4.5 out of 5 stars