A few different people had recommended this book to me. Once I got hold of a copy from a friend, I could soon see why.
The population of Alera contains those with special abilities. They're called "crafters" and they can control elements - earth, air, fire, water, and metal, through a bond with an element's "fury". We meet Amara, a windcrafter, who is on a training exercise with her mentor, Fidelias. They are both Cursors, spies and messengers for the First Lord, Gaius. However, Amara soon finds herself tricked and betrayed by Odiana, a water witch, and Fidelias himself. She manages to escape and tell Gaius, who then sends her to the city of Garrison to spy out the land.
The story then switches to a certain steadholt in the Calderon Valley, owned by Bernard, who lives with his sister and their nephew, Tavi. Tavi is fifteen and furyless, which is pretty significant. When Tavi and Bernard set out to find a lost sheep, they come upon a Marat warrior. The Marat are a race who have fought with Alerans in the past, and the fact that they are in Alera is pretty alarming.
Fast forward and we find that Aquataine, one of the Lords, is the one organising the rebellion against Gaius. Epic battles ensue, and Gaius' side wins, though very narrowly.
The world building and history making in this novel is fantastic. Butcher sequences together complex politics and intertwining storylines brilliantly, so much so that it feels like you're reading something straight out of the Ancient Roman Empire - furies aside. The characters are diverse, genuine, and real, in that some are bent towards goodness and some towards evil, but are completely human in their actions and motivations. By that, I mean there aren't the typical all-good and all-evil - each of the characters has light and dark within them, and they choose their courses of actions - particularly Fidelias - for specific reasons.
This is the start of what is sure to be a brilliant series, and I'm very excited to see how the characters and politics - particularly the furyless Tavi -play out.