Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I'm Reading: Jim Butcher

I'm currently on book three of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, which starts with Calderon's Fury.

Now, you may know that I'm a big fan of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. The Dresden books have a lot of adventure, self-deprecating humor, nerd-culture references, and appealing characters. The first two or three books are a bit weak, but around book four the storylines really pick up.

So I was interested to see what Jim Butcher did with this fantasy series. I have to say, though - the Codex Alera really isn't grabbing me. It's not awful or anything, I don't think it's bad, I just don't find myself drawn in.

I've been wondering why that is. It's the same author, writing the two series' concurrently. Jim Butcher and I clearly share a set of values, which manifests in the main characters of both series: friendship, family, loyalty, integrity. (I've noticed that Values is often a tipping point for me - in the absence of strong merits or flaws in a book, the likability and integrity of main character will make a difference between liking and disliking a book. But that's not the issue here.)

I'm tempted to think that the lack of humor is the main difference. The Dresden Files are funny, and the Codex Alera really isn't. But I think the real problem is broader than that. I've got two theories, and ya'll get to hear them both.

Theory #1: Overthinking it
The Codex Alera is really an attempt at high fantasy: an epic story, told over the course of years, with a complex system of magic, multiple characters, and a little map in the front of the book. It's possible that all this structure kills the exuberance that pervades the Dresden series

Theory #2: Dresden is Jim Butcher
The Dresden books are written in the first person, with a distinct humor and voice. It seems possible that Dresden's voice has so much life because Jim Butcher is putting a lot of himself in the story.

In summery, forget the Codex Alera, and go get some Dresden books.

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