Commodities broker, father, husband, and avid scifi/fantasy/self help fan.
If you follow my reviews, you know that I like to roll the dice, to randomly buy a series on a whim, on the luck of the draw. Sometimes, it's a bust.
This time, it's a definite win, but if you go by how the series was created, you'd probably run in the opposite direction.
Here's one for the books: Jim Butcher is well-known for his "Dresden Files" series, created a fantastic fantasy series on a BET. Yep, a bet. Read on.
To quote the Codex Alera Wiki site, "the inspiration for the series came from a bet Jim was challenged to by a member of the Delray Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Jim could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and Jim countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion", and “Pokémon”.
It DOES sound lame.
Well, Butcher makes it work. To the nines.
I've finished this first novel, and I'm enjoying this unique story line of humans with Roman similarities binding with elemental furies. Add unique races, backstabbing, politics, military battles, duels and an interwoven story line that pulls it all together, and you get a fantastic story that's simply put, a VERY VERY good listen.
The whole concept of fighting alongside elemental familiars used here is wonderfully executed. It's deep, well-thought magic-based partnership of man and magical creature is a pleasure to experience.
So, what about the writing?
Again, if you follow my reviews, you know that I love ENGAGING fantasy or scifi writing. Anything less won't do. And this is definitely engaging. There's great characters that plot, backstab, challenge, fight for their beliefs, devour their enemies, and celebrate their victories. You're taken on a great romp of a story, and in the end, isn't that what we all want in a good listen?
I know I do, and I so enjoyed this first audiobook in the series, that I bought the entire series. Yep. And I'm not disappointed with the decision.
Who knew that Lost Roman Legions and Pokemon could knock it out of the park?
Home run, Jim. Home run.
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
The characters in this book spend a ton of time walking through the the desert without water. Have a glass of your favorite beverage available as you listen.
When I finished Gardens of the Moon, I was at about 50-50 on whether to continue with this series. It was well written, but it didn't pull me in. It was more respect than love. I believed that the world was well drawn, but the scope too sweeping and the characters too numerous to try really get to know any one of them.
It gets better. This book continues with some of the characters, but not others. Thus it is a bit more manageable. As you read the series the sheer volume of words over time allows you to get to know the characters more fully. In other words: while huge in scope, it gets easier to grasp as you go along.
Erikson is very talented in that his landscape is very well painted. The setting for this series is an entire planet and he seems to want to cover everything that is happening on its surface. Moreover, he has no shortage of ideas when coming up with interpersonal, national, magical conflict. There is always some argument, earthquake, war, or magical existential crisis a chapter away. It makes you wonder how he will keep track of all the threads.
One thing I would challenge about the veracity of the characters is their glib misery. Erikson seems to want his characters to suffer most of the time. There are very few iotas of happiness in his books. It's mostly fighting, dying, being raped, descending into madness, suffering, or at least being annoyed. Despite this, his characters really do maintain a fantastically positive attitude. After so much smiling in the face of death, you begin to forget that there is so much of it in sheer volume. It makes me worry for the future of the narrative. If we are simply used to wholesale, abject death, where do you go from there to create tension?
That is but a small thing, however. I think I am in it for the long haul. I am on to the third book now and things keep getting better. I recommend carrying on to book 2 if you even kind of liked book 1. Lister does a really good job of voice characterizations even if they are not all the way I would envision the characters. He is consistent and has great cadence.
So fill your camelback and drop a credit on book 2. Enjoy.