First Lord’s Fury

Jim Butcher’s First Lord’s Fury has me thinking again about the ways a character can achieve greatness.
The book is the finish of the Furies of Calderon sword-and-sorcery series, and I think it’s also interesting in how to do a series right and keep it interesting (note, spoilers follow).
First, the greatness: As we know by the time this book (#6) gets under way, series protagonist Tavi is born to greatness but nobody knows it. He’s that classic figure, the rightful heir whose true parentage——the son of the current First Lord (emperor) of Alera——is hidden from everyone. Instead of receiving the benefits of being born great, he’s going to have to achieve greatness.
Achieve he does. Despite starting out without any of the elemental magic most Alerans have, he proves himself over and over, and against increasingly tougher challenges. By the time he becomes First Lord himself in this book, he’s more than earned his status.
This brings up another reason the series works: Tavi’s challenges steadily (and plausibly) increase as the series goes along.
At the start, his big challenges are the Aleran’s barbarian adversaries; various scheming nobles; and proving himself without magic.
Then he has to take on the Canim, caninoid warrior much superior in combat to humans, and either defeat them or make peace with them.
And then, in the current book, he has to defeat the voord, insectoid aliens intent on blotting out all other life on Tavi’s world and quite capable of doing it.
The increasing challenge level keeps things interesting. So does the fact the series ended in six books, rather than running on indefinitely.
As I’ve said before, I’m quite happy to read series that simply do the same thing over and over, but there’s a lot to be said for something coming to a satisfactory end. Not a happily ever after end, in this case: The rules of magic are changing; the voord aren’t completely gone; the alliance of humans, Marat barbarian and Canim isn’t necessarily stable; and Tavi realizes midway through First Lord’s Fury that Aleran society will permanently change as the result of all this.
All of which would justify a follow-up series down the road, but Tavi’s adventures, I suspect, are done. And thanks to Butcher’s skills, quite satisfactorily (I’ll give him extra point for not having Kitai immediately drop out of the action when she gets pregnant).
If I ever start working on a novel series, I hope I remember some of this analysis, because I think it’d be darn useful.

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