Butcher branches out from the urban landscape of his Harry Dresden series to an epic adventure worthy of Terry Goodkind and George R.R. Martin. In the realm of Alera where people bond with the furies, 15-year-old Tavi is set apart by his lack of furycrafting.

When the Alerans' most feared enemies, the Marat hordes, return to Calderon Valley, Tavi discovers his destiny is greater than he imagined. The simple act of saving a runaway slave named Amara embroils him in politics and war. Amara is actually a spy sent to the Valley to root out traitors in league with the Marat barbarians, and Tavi's courage and loyalty turn out to be of greater value than any fury could be.

At its heart, this is a traditional fantasy. Tavi is the young, naïve boy destined to be a hero and unaware of his own greatness. But Butcher overcomes cliché with strong characterizations of Tavi's fierce determination, Alera's unflinching loyalty and a multitude of good- and evil-doers.

The switching viewpoints can get a little confusing, but the story is compelling. Although they are enmeshed in a typical good-over-evil quest, the characters are ones we come to care about and want to follow through to their reward. (Oct., 448 pp., $23.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum