A martial arts enthusiast whose resume includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago, Jim Butcher turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane. He lives with his wife, his son and a ferocious guard dog.
At the start of Butcher's absorbing fantasy, the first in a new series, the barbarians are at the gates of the land of Alera, which has a distinct flavor of the Roman Empire (its ruler is named Quintus Sextus and its soldiers are organized in legions). Fortunately, Alera has magical defenses, involving the furies or elementals of water, earth, air, fire and metal, that protect against foes both internal and external. Amara, a young female spy, and her companion, Odiana, go into some of the land's remoter territories to discover if military commander Atticus Quentin is a traitor-another classic trope from ancient Rome. She encounters a troubled young man, Tavi, who has hitherto been concerned mostly with the vividly depicted predatory "herdbanes" that threaten his sheep as well as with his adolescent sexual urges (handled tastefully). Thinking that Amara is an escaping slave, Tavi decides to help her and is immediately sucked in over his head into a morass of intrigues, military, magical and otherwise. Butcher (Storm Front, etc.) does a thorough job of world building, to say nothing of developing his action scenes with an abundance of convincing detail. This page-turner bodes well for future volumes. Agent, Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Oct. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The High Lords of Alera embark on a conspiracy to wrest leadership of their country from the First Lord, Gaius Sextus, forming an alliance with the fearsome Marat barbarians. When farm boy Tavi saves the life of Amara, a young spy for Gaius Sextus, the two young people find strength in each other to face the coming war that threatens to tear the land apart. Butcher ("The Dresden Files" series) creates a world modeled on ancient Rome that is full of warring lords and elemental magics. With strong, likable characters and a graceful storytelling style, this series debut should appeal to fans of epic fantasy. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.