The second book in the Codex Alera series takes up a couple of years after the conclusion of Furies of Calderon.
There be SPOILERS ahead, so don’t read on unless you want to hear them. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, however.
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: epic fantasy
Length: 720 pages
Publisher: Ace (paperback, November 2006)
MY RATING: 4.5 stars
Tavi is attending the Academy in Alera’s capital city where he’s made some friends and some enemies. He enjoys the patronage of the First Lord of Alera, Gaius Sextus, and so serves daily in the palace as a servant, where he’s meeting members of the First Lord’s inner circle. At the same time, he’s attending classes and training to be a cursor. Officially cursors are the First Lord’s messengers but in practice they are his spies, keeping tabs on the movers and shakers throughout the realm. They owe personal loyalty to Gaius himself. Despite his failure to manifest any control over furies, the elemental spirits through which Alerans perform magic.
As he did in the first book, Tavi is making up for this handicap by using that bodily organ that many Alerans seem not to exercise so much–his brain. Nonetheless, he is bullied and called a freak. He sticks together with his friends, who are also training to be cursors. Foremost among them is his roommate Max, the illegitimate son of High Lord Antillus; and Ehren, a boy of humble origin who has little furycrafting skill but much common sense. Tavi is set on the trail of a master cat burglar as his final test before graduating, and he comes at odds with his history professor over whether the Alerans’ ancestors the Romans could have built impressive stone structures by using their hands.
In the meantime, Gaius has an apparent stroke and lies insensible; Varg, the ambassador of the Canim (tall, strong, wolfman like sentient creatures), is trying to warn the High Lord of an imminent threat to the realm; and Tavi’s aunt Isana is embroiled in the intrigues of the Dianic League. As the first woman granted citizenship by extraordinary means, she becomes a pawn in the high politics of the realm.
In the end, with courage and wit and more than a little help from his friends, Tavi saves the First Lord’s life and the realm itself from threats internal and external. More adventures await the young Aleran cursor, but as yet he has control over no furies.
The second novel in the Codex Alera series has a much tighter and polished story than the first. Of course, first books are all about setup, so now Butcher is able to tell us a story about a familiar protagonist while gradually introducing us to several allies and enemies who will be important for the rest of the series.
If you enjoyed the first book, I strongly encourage you to continue on with the second and beyond that. It just keeps getting better and better. Whereas the first one was set in the frontier region of Calderon, here we get to see the capital city and the inner workings of the realm, good and bad. Bigger conspiracies and threats are hinted at. There is plenty more for Tavi and his friends to overcome. But Butcher solves old mysteries raised at least implicitly in Furies of Calderon even as he throws more on to the fire.
Prologue and first four chapters available here.