In this third book of the "Codex Alera" series, you finally find out what main character Tavi's name is short for. If you've been reading with your thinking cap on, it might not be so much a surprise as a thrill of the "At last, it's out in the open!" variety. Except that it isn't really out in the open, yet. By the end of this installment you and I, and a tiny handful of characters who are good at keeping secrets, know without a doubt that Tavi is the unacknowledged grandson of Gaius Sextus, the First Lord of Alera. Tavi himself doesn't know. And he's in no position to point out what name lends itself to be shortened so. He has enough to do keeping his cover as a low-ranking Legion officer under the name Rufus Scipio. For his first assignment as a Cursor, outside the capital city where he trained to be one of Gaius's special agents, Tavi is sent off to the back of beyond, where a new Legion is being formed. The First Aleran is a patchwork of units taken from all the different city-states of the realm, ideally loyal to Gaius alone, but realistically neutral at best, because of its mixed makeup.
Gaius says he wants eyes on the situation, but Tavi suspects that he is being sidelined from the action and intrigue surrounding the First Lord. Tavi has a lot to learn about being a legionare, let alone an officer. But that's all right, because most of his legion is manned by raw recruits, known as "fish." With only a few weeks on the road to train for his new cover, seconded by his academy pal Max, an old master named Magnus, and the exotic young Marat ambassador whose feelings toward him are more than possessive, Tavi must stay light on his feet. Keeping his cover, after all, means doing an endless dance to avoid revealing that he has no fury-crafting power. It doesn't help that one of his deadliest enemies—who happens to be Max's evil stepmother—suspects the truth and will go to any length to expose him. Nor does Tavi's immediate superior do him any favors, what with latrine duty being a widely accepted punishment for an uppity young subtribune.
But Tavi's time of quiet reconnoiter does not last long. He has only begun to settle into his cover as an inconspicuous, junior officer when civil war breaks out. The High Lord of Kalare has decided to make his move against the throne, and he has an army of fanatical slave-assassins on his side. Plus, Kalarus has allied himself with the wolf-like Canim, Alera's deadliest enemies. While those High Lords who remain loyal to Gaius are being hammered by Kalarus's legion—while Tavi's uncle Bernard and the latter's Cursor wife Amara lead a high-risk mission to rescue the hostages Kalarus has taken to ensure the neutrality of some key leaders—while Tavi's "aunt" Isana drains herself to the point of death to heal the family's gravely injured "slave" Fade—Tavi suddenly and unexpectedly rises to command of the First Aleran, just in time to face an invasion by sixty thousand Canim. And if his much smaller and mostly unprepared legion does not hold a bridge few of them have ever heard of, the entire realm may be lost.
A fury-crafter of great power might be able to stem the tide. But even now, as we find out exactly why Tavi has no furies, what can be done by a young man armed only with his wits, his instincts, and his iron will? How can one untried leader help the few people he has to help him, so as to get through a situation like this? That's what you'll find out in this book. I don't mean to spoil it with even the tiniest hint. But obviously, there will still be a realm, and it will have Tavi in it, to entertain us in Book 4: Captain's Fury.
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Recommended Age: 14+
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