The Realm of Alera is a civilized and beautiful place, where the average person has furies at their command, elemental beings of earth, air, fire, water and metal, bonded with those who have an affinity for them. Out in the harsh frontier of Calderon Valley, Tavi is an ordinary boy in an extraordinary world. The nephew of Steadholder Bernard and his sister Isana, both with powerful furies of their own, he is seen by his peers as a freak as he commands none. Stumbling into the start of an invasion by the savage Marat, he meets Cursor Amara, one of the King’s spies and is thrust into events that could lead to the fall of Alera or the very least, the assassination of the King. Using his wits and intelligence where others would use their furies, Tavi fights to keep his family, people and ultimately Alera safe.
I’ve been a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files for a long time and was really interested to hear he was writing a fantasy based series. Fantasy was my first love but for a while now, I hadn’t found anything new that had caught my attention and imagination.
First off, I absolutely love the unique magic system Butcher created for his world. Elemental beings that bond with the Alerans, almost like pets and are used in everyday life. Fire furies that keep lights and torches burning, water furies that allow water to travel along pipes or be used to heal wounds, earth furies that can raise walls, track prey or imbue their people with greater strength and so on. The furies take on a personality of their own and become supplementary characters that enhance the story as you meet them, however briefly.
The characters are superbly written, the main cast all have depth and detail that lead you to care about them right from the start, even the ‘bad’ guys who have their own stories and reasons for choosing the path they have taken. You also have the Marat, a tribal people who the Alerans consider savages with ways incomprehensible to them. Their characters are intriguing, vastly different to the Alerans and their society rich with tradition and beliefs. When the two begin to mix, it produces often amusing exchanges as they try to learn how to interact with each other.
The story itself is wonderful, flows easily throughout the book and the pace is just right. Exciting action alongside somber, tender moments, sharing a character’s dread at something that just happened and at times I was moved to tears. It has all the elements of a story I love – heroic endeavours in the face of overwhelming odds, clinging to something you believe in no matter how futile it might seem and finding love at the bleakest of times. These are all things that capture my heart and imagination.
By the end, I was in love with the world and it’s characters and left with a feeling of having read something truly remarkable.