Cursor’s Fury: Sloppy plot, uninspired prose, exciting story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCursor’s Fury by Jim ButcherCursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher

After having dealt with the Vord horde in Academ’s Fury, there are new worries in Cursor’s Fury, the third novel in Jim Butcher’s CODEX ALERA saga. The rebel uprising has gained strength and the aging and heirless First Lord of Alera is in danger of being overthrown. Those who are loyal, including Tavi and his friends and relatives, are targets. While Bernard, Amara, and Isana make some dubious alliances to try to counter the rebels, Tavi, who is now a Cursor, has been sent as a spy to a newly formed army legion. Clearly Tavi is being protected (ah, but for what purpose?) because nobody expects this remote legion to see any action…. but everybody is wrong and Tavi ends up commanding an ill-prepared military force.

As usual, this installment of CODEX ALERA is full of action and intrigue. A lot of the plot is pretty implausible — especially the parts dealing with Tavi’s military exploits — and to enjoy this book you really have to suspend disbelief. Young Tavi is the only person in Alera without any sort of magic assistance and he has no military experience, yet he’s brave, a brilliant tactician, and a great leader. (It helps that the enemy is pretty stupid.)

The most implausible part, though, which I mentioned in my review of Academ’s Fury, is how all the good guys are able to reason out and be sure of what the bad guys’ motives and plans are with very little evidence. The good guys make their plans based on a series of incredibly insightful leaps of logic which are backed up by hunches rather than data. This would never work in real life. Unfortunately, this happens so often that it makes much of the plot unbelievable.

And while I’m in complaint mode, let me finally say something which I’ve been tempted to say in many reviews in the past but have until now restrained myself from:

You don’t need the word “bodily” in sentences like these which are found in Cursor’s Fury:

  • … and threw himself bodily into the armored body of the Cane…
  • Her first instinct was to hurl herself bodily at Lady Aquitaine…
  • … one of them slammed bodily into the solid trunk of a particularly tall oak.

It’s redundant and ugly. There I said it. It seems petty, which is why I’ve held my tongue until now, but it happens so often in this series that I’m compelled to speak up. Authors, please excise the word “bodily” from your text. Your writing will be better for it. (And while we’re at it, let’s remove “solid” and “particularly” from that last sentence.)

Back to the story. If you are willing to excuse a sloppy plot and uninspired prose if the story is exciting, you’ll probably enjoy Cursor’s Fury. Despite my complaints, I find that I want to know what happens to Tavi. I’m finally starting to care about Tavi, Max and Fade (I don’t like any of the women in the story) but it shouldn’t have taken three books to get me to this point. Butcher keeps giving us little hints that Tavi is more than he seems (not like we didn’t know that to begin with) and I want to know what happens to him. Butcher also throws in a not-completely-unexpected twist at the end which will make most readers want to read on.

I’ll admit that part of my willingness to read the next book, Captain’s Fury, is due to my ability to borrow the audiobook from my library. The audio version is nicely narrated by Kate Reading but I wish Penguin Audio hadn’t added the startling trumpet blasts at the end of each chapter.

The power-hungry High Lord of Kalare has launched a rebellion against the aging First Lord, Gaius Sextus, who with the loyal forces of Alera must fight beside the unlikeliest of allies-the equally contentious High Lord of Aquitaine. Meanwhile, young Tavi of Calderon joins a newly formed legion under an assumed name even as the ruthless Kalare unites with the Canim, bestial enemies of the realm whose vast numbers spell certain doom for Alera. When treachery from within destroys the army’s command structure, Tavi finds himself leading an inexperienced, poorly equipped legion-the only force standing between the Canim horde and the war-torn realm.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. “He threw himself bodily into the trunk” sounds funny!

  2. Ahh, redundant adjectives, an aspect of writing editors seem increasingly willing to let pass over their desks. Best yet, fans buy it, then write reviews that read “well written”, “wonderfully described”, and “magical prose”. But thankfully there are still some who consider it “detailed details”… Preach it, Kat!

  3. Justin Blazier /

    It should be stated these books are not quite the same caliber as the Dresden Files. However, they are highly readable. I recommend you approach these novels as “story candy”. Did you enjoy adventure cartoons on Saturday mornings (He-man, Pokemon, Dungeons and Dragons, Zelda…etc)? If yes, then buy all of these immediately cause it will make you happy. Oh and Kate Reading’s performance on these audiobooks is nothing short of brilliant.

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