So depression aside, lets see what else I can ramble on about.
Well, a few weeks ago I finally listened to all of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera on audiobook. For those of you who don't recall, I took a few of his books with me on the trip to Maine last year and absolutely loved them. I breezed through the three books I had with me at the time and then spent a ridiculous amount of time visiting every bookstore I could find looking for the next ones. All I can say about that is there must be a lot of illiterate yokels up there because what passed for a bookstore up there was appalling. I finally found a Borders superstore as my last resort after a half dozen failures with smaller indie stores and hit paydirt.
Anyway, the series that had enthralled me was The Dresden Files, a sort of urban fantasy set of novels featuring a wizard in present day Chicago. It was Butcher's first breakthrough hit and came when a writing instructor suggested he take 2 separate genres and mash them together as an exercise. He chose detective noir and fantasy and the rest is history.
While The Dresden Files is what he's known for, Butcher started out wanting to write straight fantasy. He wasn't able to find any takers on his work until his other books hit it big and he established himself. Once that happened, he actually had a bidding war for his second series, a set of fantasy novels called Codex Alera. The novels follow the descendants of the lost roman legion who wandered into a Bermuda Triangle-like effect and got transported to another world. In this new world, all the elements of nature have spiritual manifestations called furies, which can be controlled by the people who now call themselves Alerans. Metal furies can allow you to reshape and sense metal or give you tolerance to pain, water furies allow you to sense emotions or heal wounds, earth furies give great strength, fire furies allow you to control fire, and wind furies allow you to fly or grant speed and quickness.
Because of these 'wormholes', Carna is populated with all sorts of sentient species pulled from different worlds and as you might imagine, they seem to spend most of their time fighting one another. When the story begins, the ruling house of Gaius, the first lord is teetering without an heir and all the various high lords are jockeying for the civil war to come. Cue a simple shepherd boy out in the boonies who seems to be an orphan and without any furies of his own. I'm pretty sure you can already guess some of the plot with just that. No one said fantasy was original.
Overall, the story was great and oddly enough, I wouldn't have pegged it as being Jim Butcher's work. It didn't have the same feel as the dresden files, and I'm not sure if that's just strange or a measure of incredible talent. About the only thing that did bleed through here and there is Butcher's sardonic sense of humor, though in this case the main character isn't the snarky one.
The series ran for 7 books and is now complete which makes me wonder what he'll pick up next. He's obviously prolific as hell if he can churn out 2 novels a year, which means that I doubt he'll simply go back to doing just the dresden files. He says he has a lot of other projects he's interested in and at the rate he's going, he'll never live to write them all. Considering the guy is not even 40 yet, that must mean there are a crapload of ideas to go through. The next dresden files book is due out in a little under two weeks and I can't wait to pick up the audiobook. James Marsters (Spike from Buff) narrates them all and he's absolutely fantastic at it. Along with the new book, two of the previous books will also be released on audiobook at the same time, completing the set to date. I'm really looking forward to running through the whole series from the beginning again.