Book Reviews

Book Review: Princep’s Fury

Princeps_furyTL;DR:

Princep’s Fury, the fifth book in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, is arguably the worst written but most interesting story within the series so far. Butcher’s strange choices in syntax and diction are more prevalent than ever in this book, and Butcher regularly chooses to ignore previously established lore in order to progress and “enhance” the story. Even in the presence of these mis-steps, Butcher’s non-human cultures and world building still shine through as the strongest and most enjoyable elements of his writing style, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say there was a compelling story hidden behind the lackluster writing. If you’ve made it this far in the series, I think you’d be making a mistake by stopping now.

The Bad:

  1. Butcher has kicked it up a notch in this book with his repetitive descriptors and strange diction and syntax choices. The book is written in modern English, but has middle English syntax and diction dusted throughout the book. Happening upon one of these sentences is incredibly jarring and effectively shatters my immersion. Also, fountains don’t chuckle and comets don’t flock.

  2. Butcher commits one of my cardinal storytelling sins. He chooses to handily ignore established abilities, details, and events from previous books when it suits him.

  3. I don’t know if Butcher just doesn’t know how to write female characters very well, or if the women of Alera only have two base character types: weak and filled with worry or bat-shit insane. Either way, all of Amara and Isana’s hand wringing gets really annoying.

  4. Butchers writing is pretty formulaic and predictable; that isn’t always a bad thing, but thus far I’ve managed to predict most major events an entire book before they’ve occurred. You can only send characters on so many impossible missions and read about so many brushes with death before these events start to lose their potency all together.

The Good:

  1. I really enjoy Butcher’s world building. He does a great job of shaping a fantasy world that is familiar enough to feel comfortable and inviting while keeping the world exotic enough to make it compelling and exciting.

  2. The different societies and cultures that Butcher has placed in his world are fantastic. Part of me really wants to read a book or two centered around The Marat or the Canim. I find both of their societies intriguing and consider my exposure to them to be some of the most enjoyable parts of the book.

  3. Despite all the technical shortcomings of Butcher’s writing, the subtle undercurrents of a great story still permeate this book. For all the negative things I’ve had to say, I still found the book to be enjoyable and read it voraciously.

The Meh:

  1. For a while now, especially after finishing Captain’s Fury, Isana’s character has come off as incredibly inconsistent and irrational to me. Her hatred of Gaius Sextus makes very little sense (I would explain further, but I don’t want to spoil anything) and her motivations and perspectives seem conveniently skewed and motivated by the story.

  2. I had a twinge of suspicion when the Vord were first revealed, but I ignored it. This book has made my initial suspicion impossible for me to ignore; I can’t help but feel like the Vord are little more than a thinly veiled copy of the Zerg from Starcraft. There are just far too many similarities: they both have large hives with hive-mind mentality controlled by queens, they both possess the ability to infect/control other species, they both take traits from the species they are fighting and use them to enhance and specialize their battle units, they both spread some sort of organic carpet across the ground that is necessary for them to live, they both lean heavily upon the ability to produce staggering numbers of troops rapidly as one of their greatest strengths, and they are both bug-like creatures. Alone, these similarities don’t mean much; but when you put them all together, things seem a little too coincidental to me.

  3. Butcher has jumped off the deep end for me regarding what can be and is done with furycraft in his book. There are one or two battle scenes that involve theatrics of furycraft that seem not only illogical given the situation they were applied in, but also completely superfluous to the story telling. He’s taken the sparky metal crafter swords to a whole new level of silly here.

  4. Butcher loves to rehash details and descriptions. It’s not a huge deal, but you don’t need to remind me that Vord chitin is green and black whenever an opportunity presents itself, nor do you need to remind me that water crafters look younger than they actually are. I know that High Lords are many times more powerful with furycraft than other people.This is book five of the series. I am familiar with at least some of the details of your world by now.

Synopsis:

Tavi has successfully negotiated the end of open hostilities with the Canim and has even returned to the Canim nation of Canea with Varg and Nasaug. His departure couldn’t come at a worse time. While he is escorting the Canim back to their home and working to build upon the tenuous alliance he has formed with them, the Vord have reappeared in the southern lands of Alera. Due to Kalarus’ recent rebellion, the area has been left in a state of ruined lawlessness, and has provided the perfect place for the Vord to establish a foothold in Alera. With Tavi gone and Gaius Sextus’ failing health, the mighty nation of Alera may be facing its final dark days.

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