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Fated (An Alex Verus Novel) Mass Market Paperback – February 28, 2012
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"Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously---and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list." ---Jim Butcher --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Benedict Jacka is half-Australian, half-Armenian, and grew up in London. He’s worked as a teacher, bouncer, and civil servant, and spends his spare time skating and playing tabletop games. He’s the author of the Alex Verus series, including Burned, Veiled, Hidden, and Chosen.
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Ah. A fine first sentence told me this was going to be my kind of book. Alex Verus, the first-person protagonist, owns the London magic shop in which he works. This isn’t the kind of magic shop where you can buy interlocking rings or a box for sawing your assistant in half; think more New Age, with crystal balls and herbs. And Alex isn’t the kind of mage who concocts potions and waves a wand around. He’s a diviner, a man who can see into the future. But it’s not a matter of just taking a look ahead and seeing what’s going to happen, because the future doesn’t work that way. Every choice he or someone in his future makes changes things, possibly even everything, so what he really sees is probabilities. That means that he can do “research” by imagining the result of his opening this door instead of that door, or leaving now instead of five minutes later.
It’s a nice magic system, and author Benedict Jacka manipulates it to good advantage in Fated, his first urban fantasy. Jacka introduces a number of good characters, including Luna, a young woman who carries a curse that operates against anyone who touches her; Starbreeze, an air elemental who cannot keep a thought in her head for more than 30 seconds; and Arachne, who spins beautiful silks and creates wondrous garments from them. These three form the core of Alex’s support system. Jacka also skillfully weaves in bits and pieces of Alex’s back story, which involves an incomplete apprenticeship to a Dark mage along with three other children and a subsequent rethinking of whether good and bad are mere conventions.
The plot turns on a Precursor artifact, which gives Jacka a chance to tell us a bit about the history of magic in a world that looks exactly like ours, as well as a picture of the politics and how power is distributed between Dark and Light mages. A statue being housed at the British Museum encloses the artifact, and no one can figure out how to get to it without being zapped by the statue’s defenses. It’s clear that a diviner is needed, but every one of them except Alex has gone into hiding. Alex finds himself surprisingly popular among some formidable mages who are willing to give him no room to say no to their requests to figure out how to retrieve a very powerful piece of magical equipment from an earlier age.
Fated is Jacka’s first adult novel, and the first in his ALEX VERUS urban fantasy series that now extends to seven books — and I’m looking forward to reading all of them after finding myself happily lost in the pages of this one. Jacka’s plotting is sharp, with puzzle pieces all fitting neatly together. His prose is smooth and easy to read, even when explaining how his magic system works or venturing into the philosophy of free will or good versus evil. (Those who read for nothing but plot will miss Jacka’s insights into the philosophical underpinnings of this universe. That might not be a big problem in this novel, but I suspect one would be lost in future books in this series.) The characters are likable when they should be, despicable when they should be, and, best of all, fully as mysterious and changeable as they should be. It’s a very promising start to a series; so much so that I’ve already purchased the next book, Cursed, and plan to read it as soon as I’m finished writing this review. By which I mean to say … NOW.
Originally published at Fantasy Literature blog on October 5, 2016.
The character is different - not a bad-ass who blows things apart, but one who relies on finesse and cunning. That's good and original. The quality of prose is very good (no obvious favorite words being repeated over and over, no childish or stilted turn of phrases, etc). And most of of all, the story is not particularly predictable and keeps the reader engrossed.
About the only nit I could pick in the story is that there are some inconsistencies with how Alex is able to divine the future - in some cases, he can just sit and walk down each potential path. In other cases, he is unable to do so because some critical decision isnt made. Quite honestly, that just reeks of a short-cut by the author to keep the plot rolling - wouldnt do if the protagonist could sniff out everything, could it?
There are books where this sort of a short-cut or lack of development by the author ruins the tale. However, in this book, it isnt particularly jarring and is something which well able to put within the "suspension of disbelief" that I, like all readers, take up when I read fantasy or sci-fi (at some point, trying to explain every little detail means the book will get bogged down in inconsequential stuff).
Still, it is minor things like this that separate very good books from truly excellent books (eg, by Stephen Eriksson, Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher).
I consider myself a fairly voracious reader of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and have a fairly low tolerance for poor language skills, rambling/inconsistent storytelling (shut up already, Oberon) and poorly thought out plot-lines (most self-published authors), and so my rating is fairly tough, as you can see from my other reviews.
I rate this book 4-stars, which is a very, very solid rating (I reserve 5-stars for truly exceptional books) and makes it a no-brainer-purchase IMO. I finished Book 1 30 min ago, and Book 2 has already been downloaded into my Kindle. If Book 2 carries over the promise, the other 3 are getting purchased immediately.
Btw, to the author - big thumbs up for that "wizard in Chicago" reference. Tongue in cheek, and apt, given that the Chicago fella is the yardstick by which all modern-day mages are going to measured. Keep it up and please, for the love of Mab, dont make us wait 2 years for each new book! :)
First off, the premise of this is great. Jacka has built a nicely formed world ala Harry Dresden, even giving the fictional wizard a nod in the beginning of the novel. I also liked the idea of having Alex running a magic shop, which gives us lots of possibilities for future novels. The character of Alex is rather nice, being both a jerk and a relatively nice guy, sometimes in the same breath. True, he's your typical world-weary-everyone-hates-him sort of character, but these types are popular for a reason. Nobody really wants to read about "Mike, the guy who was liked by everyone and never had anything bad happen to him or anyone else ever", at least not unless he's going to have some bad stuff thrown at him in the course of the story. Plus a talking spider? Awesomeness.
The only downfall is that despite some pretty good stuff going on in the book, there are also points in the book where I just felt a little bored and the plot just seems to sort of drag under its own weight. It just felt a little meh for the most part, especially towards the ending. Like I said, I liked the book well enough to where I'll buy the next book in the series and know that it deserves at least three stars, but not enough to where I feel particularly inspired to give it more than three stars.