Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Review Summary: Disappointing
I listened to half the series as an audiobook. Add one star for the audiobook as this was very well done (and you can afford to miss a large portion of narration without really missing much of the story).
Frankly that only reason I continued with the series was that fact that the world building wasn't half bad. You have a lost roman legion who setup a new society on another world/dimension where nature spirits manifest themselves a "furies" which are controlled by a communities of citizen sorcerers with a eugenics style breeding program to maintain and/or improve this power over their environment. Stir in several conflicts with barbarians (mongol style hordes, wolf men and ice men), and you do get an interesting backdrop for a story.
Book 1: The characters themselves seemed to be little more the exaggerated caricatures with very little nuance and emotional control. Sadly, this is a very similar style to how he wrote the Dresden Files, of which I am a fan; however, the style doesn't extend well into the epic fantasy motif. Too many characters and no enough obvious limits on plot development (a common probably with fantasy). After awhile, it felt like the "good" guys were perpetually "preaching" a limited point from a very weak straw-man position. It quickly grew tedious when it became apparent that the author was simply building his story from a collection of tropes and cliches. I truly found very little that was a unique contribution and that is where the bulk of my disappoint lies. All-n-all, it would be an okay youth fantasy story (right in the middle of the pack here).
Series: The main problem that I had with the series was that the storyline kept repeating with little to no character development and very limited world development. After about the 3rd or 4th time hearing that the enemy slammed into the defenders with "ruinous" effect, I had flash-backs to the Princess Bride when Montoya states "You keep using that word; I don't think it means what you think it means."
As a military fantasy ... the series is a complete failure (though perhaps my own military experience and awareness of military history makes me too hard here). I also found the over-arching plot development to be lacking discipline, as the protagonist and his allies frequently gets written into a corner where the author must break nearly all bonds of credulity to save them ... presumably to show of how clever they are. I just didn't see it that way; frankly this style of story telling is why fantasy as a genre has such a bad reputation.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.