Tavi and his companions are escorting the Canim back to their home across the sea. When they arrive they find that the Canim’s land has been invaded by the Vord. Back home in Alera, unbeknownst to Tavi, his countrymen are also being overrun by the Vord and Amara, Isana, Bernard, and the First Lord are on the front lines. Will the Vord conquer both Alera and Canim, or can Tavi and Isana negotiate alliances with a couple of Alera’s enemies so they can fight the Vord horde together?
Princeps’ Fury is the fifth book in Jim Butcher’s CODEX ALERA series. For the most part I’ve thought that this traditional epic fantasy was diverting but ultimately forgettable, though the fourth book, Captain’s Fury, actually elevated CODEX ALERA into the “enjoyable” category. It was better than the first three books — the writing was better, the action was more exciting, and it focused mostly on the more likable characters. I had high hopes for the rest of the series.
Unfortunately, Princeps’ Fury doesn’t maintain the quality of Captain’s Fury, but mostly regresses back to the level of the previous books. The writing has continued to improve, but the other problems are back. They’re all minor issues, but they add up. Most noticeable is the way the good guys are able to make outlandish but correct guesses about the enemy’s’ intentions and plans. I can’t lose myself in the story when I am thinking, at several critical points, “that would never happen.” Also, characters that should be dead (after having been dealt a deathblow) don’t stay dead. Battle scenes lack any tension because even if one of the main characters gets a sword in the belly, they’ll be healed. Another problem is the nature of the enemy. The Vord is one of those insectoid species that’s ruled by a hive queen. They’re inhuman, impersonal, and even though there are thousands of them, they feel like one entity. As enemies go, they’re pretty boring.
In Princeps’ Fury we spend a lot of time on the front lines with Isana and Amara and, frankly, I just don’t like them. In fact, I don’t like any of the women in this series. They don’t feel like real women to me and they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. It doesn’t help that I’m listening to the audiobooks narrated by Kate Reading. Most of the voices for her women sound the same. Even the names “Isana” and “Amara” sound similar and even after reading four books in this series I still have to keep reminding myself which woman is which. Kate Reading’s voice for Kitai, Tavi’s girlfriend, makes her sound like a robot.
One last problem with this series is that I don’t know why I’m supposed to be rooting for Tavi. It’s obvious that he’s going to be First Lord in the final book, but there are several other Lords who want the throne. I’m not sure why Tavi, who’s still a teenager, is a better candidate than at least one of the older experienced Lords. I hope this will be answered in the final book.
I didn’t really mean to be so hard on CODEX ALERA. I think this series had the potential to be something much better and it gets high marks by thousands of readers at Amazon and Goodreads, so it’s clearly appealing to a lot of readers. For me, though, CODEX ALERA is readable and even diverting, but nothing special.