fated (Alex Verus #1)
It’s not possible to read this book without relating it to the Dresden Files, for two reasons. The first is the blurb on the cover from Jim Butcher stating that “Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously—and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list.” The second reason is the direct reference to Dresden as a guy Alex heard of who advertised under Wizard in the yellow pages within the novel itself. At first, there were a bunch of parallels between the two stories/characters: two men, neither in the favor of their ruling bodies, both of whom survived horrifying apprenticeships and still bear the resulting scars. However, although similar, there are stark differences between the two. While Harry can control the elements, Alex can only see the future. While Harry was his uncle’s apprentice, Alex was a slave to a Dark mage. The main reason it brought Dresden to mind so strongly is because there was a Dresden shaped hole in my reading that I hadn’t noticed until I read the first sentence of this book. I’m not going to lie, Alex fits into that hole perfectly. He’ll never replace Dresden, because let’s be honest, who really could, but there’s room in my reading life for the both of them.
Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.
But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…
Now, as to the story, it’s pretty damn good. Jacka’s characterization is strong and although there’s a short period wherein the pacing flags for the vast majority of the tale the pacing combines with the tension to glue your eyes to the page. I read this book in a single afternoon. I simply couldn’t put it down. Now, here’s where Jacka shines, his worldbuilding. It’s superbly done. Between the blue green flickering light of his barriers and his fog marbles, he genuinely created a world that’s surprisingly easy to see and completely riveting. The final bit of action is made all the more fascinating by its inter-dimensional traits.
With regards to the protagonist, Alex Verus, I’m fascinated by the man and his gift. I’d never really thought out the implications of having the ability to see the future, but after reading this book,oh my god do I want it. He might have to rely on his wits during a physical fight, but with his ability he has both wits and knowledge galore. On a different level, I’m wholly glad that this is fiction because I don’t want to have to worry about someone out there who has a few hours on their hands who happens to run into my thread of the future and decides to ferret out all of my embarrassing secrets. I’m naturally clumsy. While I’m sure it would be an entertaining few hours, I’d really rather live in a world where someone isn’t sitting on a park bench laughing themself hoarse while I fall down stairs over and over again. However, if I did live in that world, I can completely see how beneficial it would be to have this particular skill. Although, Alex is more than just his gift, he’s pragmatic and heroic. His need to protect those around him is incredibly endearing and serves to make the story more compelling. Not to mention Jacka’s artful way to introducing us to the growing cast of those who surround Alex.
In the end, this is a well crafted, highly entertaining piece of urban fantasy. It’s a world that exists within our own, only it makes for a much better read than my daily life.
4 ink bottles
Character Believability: 4 Buffys
Character Investibility: 4.5 Doctors
Pacing/Tension/Urgency: 4 Dresdens
Worldbuilding: 4 Snyders
Language: 4 Feegles
Mystery: 3.5 Sherlocks
The second book in this series is slated to release on May 29th. Get a move on reading this one, because you’re going to want to be up and running before the next one comes out.