Cursed: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

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Cursed: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Cursed, the second Alex Verus novel, is better than the first. This rollicking good urban fantasy/action novel creates a mind movie as it progresses. It can be read as a stand-alone but it contains spoilers from Fated so the choice is yours. Benedict Jacka popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356500256

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A beautiful enchantress steps through the door just as an evil construct beast hurtles through the window. Not an obtuse Chinese saying, but a typical day in the life of future-diviner and magic shop owner, Alex Verus. Add to this the benign magical animal that seems to have died mysteriously and unmarked and you begin to realise something's afoot. It's the sort of day that could only be made worse by the realisation that Alex's curse-soaked friend Luna has fallen in love with someone other than Alex and... yes, the downward spiral has just taken another turn.

Benedict Jacka treats us to the follow up to Fated and, indeed, 'treats' is the word. The surviving characters are back. Once again Alex visits the seat of the ruling Council in Canary Wharf and comes away with a job. Luna is now Alex's apprentice but that isn't going too well as Alex has never had one before, and, besides, Luna's a mate and happens to be in love with Martin. Luna is as feisty as ever, but a lot of the 'feist' this time around is aimed at Alex. Indeed, despite his ability to see into the future, Alex is having a rough time and can't understand why he can't feel happy for Luna. (Three guesses Alex!) By the way, Luna's curse is also still there, ensuring that anyone who gets too close to Luna is at least badly injured, and often terminally so.

Cursed is a lot pacier than Fated, mainly because the author has dropped the lecture-like paragraphs of information concerning the world of the mage. There are still informative snippets (e.g. the limitations of Alex's powers and the use of favours as currency) but they're well placed and just long enough not to interrupt the flow. There are also some great chortle moments. My recommendation to brighten the dullest day would be a quick read of Alex's conversation with random misguided customers looking for magic or his attempts to try and teach Luna how to control her curse by ballroom dancing.

The dream-like world of Elsewhere also makes a reappearance adding some mild horror and a bit of gore. It may be a convenient device, linking Alex with others without knowledge of their geographical location, but it's also very atmospheric which makes 'convenient' good in this instance.

Generally speaking, urban fantasy works best when it provokes the imagination to see more in familiar 'real world' locations (London in Alex's case). Benedict Jacka takes this one step further, hereby taking a real-world topic and applying it to a fantasy world. The parallel world of the mages seems to have a parallel ecological problem: magical beasts are slowly sliding into extinction. This is a problem with connotations for Mr Verus as he has a friend who happens to be an 8ft tall spider. (I like Arachne so I'm willing to go with it.)

The only bit of this second novel that doesn't improve on the first is the climax. The maze-like quality of the chase at the end of Fated added to the excitement, developing a claustrophobic element compared to the more almost mundane action-themed climax in Cursed. There are good plot reasons for this and, as previously mentioned, Cursed as a whole is superior so this should be treated as a minor whimper rather than any form of a rant.

Once again Jacka's homage to the excellent Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden lurks in the background. Verus spends his life treading a fine line between receiving the ruling council's tolerance and their distaste whilst preferring to live apart from mage politics, all very Dresden.

Taken, Alex Verus #3 arrives in September 2012 and Cursed provides us with plenty of loose ends to assist the anticipation whilst we wait. The next book includes a form of games which seems highly fitting in Olympic year, but I have a feeling any competition Alex Verus takes part in won't be the sort of thing we'd see on our screens... pity.

I would like to thank Orbit for giving Bookbag a copy of this book for review.

If you've read Fated, then our suggestion would be anything by Jim Butcher, rated by Benedict Jacka and many other urban fantasy fans.

Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus Novels in Chronological Order

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Buy Cursed: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cursed: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at

Bookinterviews.jpg Benedict Jacka was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.


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