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Review of Codex Alexa

    You know, the dumbest idea I've ever heard was the thought that Roman Legions and Pokemon mixed together could make a good novel. “Surely,” I thought, “Those two things could never truly mix well.” Apparently, I was sorely mistaken, because through the masterful writing of Jim Butcher, these ideas were formulated into not one, not two, but SIX of the best books I've read this year. What was this series called you may ask? Codex Alera.

    The whole idea came from a flame war in an online writers’ workshop. Arguments had erupted about whether or not a skilled writer was required if a story's central premise was good enough. In the end, someone dared Jim Butcher to write a book using a terrible premise. Jim Butcher upped the ante and asked for TWO. And thus began the Codex Alera series.

    The book is set in the world of Carna. More specifically, the continent of Alera. On this continent, there is an empire based heavily on that of the Roman’s… with one notable difference. Every single person dwelling within this continent has the ability to manipulate powerful elemental spirits known as “Furies.” Everyone, of course, except for Tavi; who is, of course, one of the most important characters in the story.

    Tavi, however, is not the only one the story focuses on. No, this story gives us exposure to the internal workings of four of the main characters, with the occasional additional voice thrown in for the sake of that book. Each character goes through their own internal struggles, makes their own mistakes, and ultimately become some of the most well developed and interesting characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. How about I introduce you to them, yeah?

    First up, we have Amara, a spy in service of the ruler of the country, Gaius Sextus. She suffers a horrific betrayal at the very beginning of the series, and finds herself on the run from her former friend. Later, Amara begins to struggle with her loyalties, as over the course of the first book in the series, she falls in love with a man named Bernard. This results in an incredible story of whether love or duty should be be prioritized.

    Next, we have Isana. She is Tavi’s caregiver after the death of her sister, Alia, forced her to become his mother figure. Isana works with her brother, Bernard, to run a Steadholt, or large farm with multiple families working on it. Over the course of the series, she becomes one of the most powerful watercrafters in the series, rivaling even the high lords in her abilities. She uses these powers with deadly efficiency to defend her family, and to do battle against the forces that would destroy her people. Throughout the series, she is shown to be the one who is most willing to break traditions to do what is right, and shown to be one of the greatest success stories for the Freefolk of Alera.

    Third, we have Fidelias. Amara’s former mentor, and a traitor to the First Lord. He ends up siding with Attis and Invidia Aquitaine, the antagonists of several books. Over the series, he deals with the fallout of that choice, and what it means for his future. Fidelias ultimately sees himself as loyal not to the lords of the realm, but to the realm itself. Thus, he struggles greatly in the realization that he chose the side that would do the realm more harm than good. Fidelias’ story is that of a man who has lost everything for his treason, and that of a man who will do whatever it takes to secure his country's safety.

    And finally, we have Tavi. The only Aleran without any furies, and the chief protagonist of our story. By the end of the series, his actions have stopped several invasions, and resulted in him being recognized by the highest power of Alera. While technically powerless, he has a unique cunning and attention to detail that causes furies to be unnecessary for victory. Tavi doesn’t hesitate to utilize the furies of others in his plans, however. But beyond that, he is a downright decent person. He is a person who has the strength of character to condemn himself to ruin in order to save the life of someone he just met. From what we learn throughout the book, that seems to run in the family.

    These four characters, and the people they choose to ally themselves with, shape the course of Alera’s history throughout the book. Unleashing terrible threats, meeting on the field of battle, strategizing behind the masks of politicians and couriers, and providing an incredible story of tactics, bravery, and good intentions. But unfortunately for Alera, well… I suppose we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

    Ultimately, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a thrilling new series. The characters are well fleshed out, the conflicts are interesting, and the foreshadowing is incredible. This series contains everything enjoyable about the fantasy genre. It has magic, it has duels, and it has enormous battles. There are interesting politics, acts of espionage, prison breaks, and enormous threats to the realm every book. And come on, don’t you want to find out if Jim Butcher can truly say he won the bet?
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