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First off, I'll start off with a whinge about ebooks, and how the last book in this set is only available in the US, and not in the UK.
This problem I managed to deal with - and not by pirating - but it was annoying.

Anyway, Codex Alera is a set of 6 books, that follow the life of Tavi - a farmboy. It's set in a world where 'most' people have furies, in some degree, which is a sort of a cross between a pet elemental, and magic.
Tavi doesn't.

Aside from the magic system, which I've only seen vaguely similar in Dark Materials, there's a lot of cliches in there. I mean, boy that grows up on a farm becoming the hero? Well, yeah. But I'm not going to hate on a book just for that - I mean, I expect the good guy to win in most films I see, but what's important is how you get there, and how characters are developed in the interim.

Jim Butcher manages it quite nicely - there's a real depth to Tavi - he's likable, and plausibly smart despite striving to get along in a world where he's effectively handicapped. The supporting cast of key characters are similarly quite full and well rounded - there's treachery about, but it's well pulled off - much like George R.R. Martin, when someone's being evil, it's rarely 'just cuz', and there's usually more to it.

It's also quite a well written and paced narrative, and it does draw you along - a real 'burning the midnight oil' book, which is a bit of a hazard when it's 6 books long.

I'd strongly recommend it - if the synopsis looks good to you, it's probably a book that you'd enjoy.

Furies of Calderon - first book in the series
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There's a trap waiting for the unwary author. It's that of wanting to make their lead character someone likeable and worthy of respect. The reason it's a trap, is because it can lead to 'projecting' a strong and powerful lead character, who just gets on with things and saves the day. It's an even deeper hole to fall in in a fantasy setting (perhaps even more so than Sci-fi) because you've control of the rules of your world. You can make your lead character supremely powerful.

That's not always a problem, but you're making your life harder by doing so - because you can no longer tell a story of adversity and discovery and growth, without really layering the 'adversity' on thick. Which ... well, you still have control of the world, so you can just invent that adversity, but then you start getting dangerously close to breaking that suspense of disbelief implicit upon the reader.
Get two characters, and have one shout MY POWER IS 9000. And another shout MY POWER IS OVER 9000!. Yeah. Great.
So no one's really interested in Superman's fairly average day. Superman flying up a tree to rescue a kitten isn't a story, it's background flavour.

Unfortunately, I think that's the trap that this book falls into. The setting is one where some characters are 'Graced' with ability beyond normal, to supernatural levels. The Graceling of the title. This delivered a measure promise, as you can develop themes of unfairness, discrimination, explore the nature of what it means to be a person - when does one cross the line of 'being human' when blessed/cursed by magic?

Sadly, it doesn't deliver. The lead character - Katsa - is a bit of a Mary Sue. Doesn't make a mistake, has a Grace that means most of the challenges she faces ... well, aren't really. The love interest almost does the same thing.

It's actually quite a reasonable story, or would be if it weren't for the lead characters intrinsic awesomeness - so the antagonist ends up being inflated in terms of power level, to present a threat, and it just sort of strays into the realm where there's no real feeling of accomplishment with the plot resolution, because it wasn't - the power levels were too high, and one person just managed to get lucky. More or less, anyway.

And by the same token, there's not really much of a growth as a character, because she's already powerful, and moral, and the only real change is ... almost trivial as a result.

The eternal problem when writing your own universe - keeping it self consistent, and resisting the temptation to iteratively 'trump' the epic powerlevel.

Despite all that, I won't call it a bad book - I didn't take long to read it, and it was something of a light bite, but it's not badly written by any means.
It's just more the kind of book I'd leave on the shelf in the bathroom - ok to read 10 pages at a time whilst on the loo, and not the end of the world if you get caught short one day.

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