Jim Butcher, author of the ever-entertaining Dresden Files books, has a lesser-known fantasy series that I finally got around to starting. The Codex Alera, as it is called, is set in a sword-and-sorcery type world (with it’s own unique twists on a usual trope, of course) and is quite the departure from the famous sardonic wit of Dresden’s first-person narrative.

Furies of Calderon, the first book in The Codex Alera is jam-packed with conflict and politics. Plot twists abound, and the action rarely pauses. It opens with two Cursors—the First Lord’s intelligence agents—investigating a rumored army encampment, and finding it to be larger and better equipped than expected. After a surprising…character development and a narrow escape, the plot to overthrow the ruler is brought into the open. From there, the story moves on to a place known as the Calderon Valley.

I don’t want to give the story away, but the general gist is that the plot revolves around a family that administers a town in the countryside and how the political scheming effects them. They fight to prevent Calderon from being massacred for the sake of being a chess piece. One of the Cursors from the opening chapter comes to warn them and help steer the events toward a favorable outcome.

In Alera, everyone has some degree of magical ability. Derived from elemental spirits called furies, they use their limited ability to manipulate matter to work and fight. Everyone has at least one fury, with some characters having two, except for Tavi, the steadholder’s nephew. For some unexplained reason, he has none and must rely entirely on his wits throughout the story.

According to an interview with Jim Butcher, Alera is based on a dare to write a fantasy novel using two “terrible ideas,” those ideas being the “Lost Roman Legion and Pokémon.” So…can we assume that the fury-less Tavi will “catch ’em all?”