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I've read several of Butcher's ''Dresden Files'' series and enjoyed them. In the most recent novels in that series, there has been a section in back where he talks about his love for the old style swords and horses fantasy genre. Being quite a fan of that kind of thing myself, I was keen to find out how good Butcher's take on the genre was.
In ''First Lord's Fury'', the concluding part in Jim Butcher's six-part ''Codex Alera'' series, the land of Alera is struggling under the weight of an invasion by the Vord. The First Lord of Alera has been killed in battle and with his son already dead and his grandson away fighting in Canea, there looks likely to be a power struggle within the Alerans themselves. Many Alerans have switched their allegiance to the Vord, sensing that victory over them is impossible and believing that may be the only way to escape death. This gives the Vord access to Aleran furies, a powerful force that is the Alerans main weapon.
Unknown to many, the rightful heir to the position of First Lord, Tavi, is returning from Canea with many of the defeated Canim soldiers with him. Tavi believes that even if furies are to meet on the field on battle, the better tactics and thinking of the Alerans can defeat the Vord, who are largely a single entity controlled by the Queen. But with the remaining Alerans in retreat and more of the land falling under Vord control, he has to act quickly. He also has to ensure the two armies he travels with remain in alliance and soon discovers a traitor in his own ranks he must deal with.
The highlights of ''The Dresden Files'' for me has been Butcher's seemingly inexhaustible imagination, in the way he constantly finds new tricks to play on both character and reader. That imagination is present here, such that just when you think one side may be gaining the upper hand, the opposing leaders come up with a fiendish and unexpected plan the counter what is going on and the battle swings back the other way. As the reader, you can never be sure if any battle is going to end in a decisive victory or if something is about to happen. It does make things terribly exciting.
Exciting is certainly the best way to sum up ''First Lord's Fury'', as being the end of a series, Butcher seems determined that it should go out in some style. There is a touch of political intrigue in the accession of First Lord and there is a rogue element in the Canim ranks that needs to be put down, but for the most part, the story here is the final battle for control of Alera. This doesn't mean there is little variation in the plot, as the Aleran Furies take so many forms that there are many tricks to be played on the armies of both sides and you can never know what will happen next.
The one down side here is that, like many a final book in a series, it's a lot harder to keep track of if you're not already familiar with the series. There are no character descriptions or introductions, with Butcher assuming you're returning to the story at this point, not entering it. This does mean it can be a little confusing at times, especially as some of the minor characters do blend in to each other at some points, particularly in the heat of battle when they are all using their various furies in an attempt to defeat the enemy. Fortunately, the main characters do tend to be more distinct, particularly in the higher echelons of the various races and the races themselves are completely different, so it's not a huge problem.
''First Lord's Fury'' is certainly an impressive book and an exciting read. Butcher's imagination is well used here, which helps to keep things that way. As good as the book is, however, it doesn't really add anything new to the fantasy genre, although it shouldn't be dismissed for that alone. As the end of a series, it's a great read and just because it's not ground-breaking doesn't mean it's not worth a look, particularly if you've already read others in the sequence. That said, it is far better borrowed that purchased, as it's not something you'd re-read after the first time and so a price of £3.38 from the Amazon Marketplace or £3.75 from Green Metropolis doesn't really represent great value for money.
This is a slightly amended version of a review first posted under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk