I just finished reading Princeps’ Fury (Codex Alera, Book 5), the latest novel in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. Butcher is far better known as author of the Dresden Files. I like the Harry Dresden books, but I’ve found that I actually look forward to the Alera books more.
The series follows the story of Tavi. He begins as a clever young shepherd boy, but even by the end of the first book, it is clear that he is much more than that. The meta-plot of the series isn’t original – it is somewhat Hero’s Journeyish – but the setting, characters, and smaller plot twists are compelling. Personality-wise, Tavi reminds me a bit of Miles Vorkosigan – a bit too clever for his own good (or maybe just clever enough). The novels are set in Alera, a land styled a bit after the Roman Empire, in which people have control over elemental furies and can tap into their magic to perform a number of superhuman feats… or cause them to manifest as elemental creatures. Alera is surrounded by other lands with other peoples and other forms of magic: the nomadic Marat, who bind their souls to those of animals; the barbaric, apelike Icemen, who control the blizzards; the gigantic, wolflike Canim, who use powerful ritual magics; and the Vord, the less spoken about, the better.
The setting is ripe for gaming. I know that Evil Hat is releasing the Dresden Files RPG (which I am really looking forward to), but I’d love to see a Codex Alera game even more. Hell, I’d love to work on one. Rules for furycrafting and manifesting furies would be a ton of fun. There’s plenty to do in Alera – the most obvious PCs would be cursors, who act as couriers and spies for the Emporer, but a legion-based game would be cool, as would a political citizen-based game, or even a game in which PCs started out on a simple steadhold.
I’m also in the middle of reading Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. I’m a big fan of Stephenson’s other books… so I was willing to push past the first third of Anathem. This was no mean feat. If you’ve read much of his work, you know he loves to play with language and etymology. He’s totally indulged himself in that here. Now that I’ve gotten through the basics, a cool story is starting to emerge. That said, I appreciate the frustration that gave rise to this. I think that’s a lesson we can all take to heart…