Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka
|Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A mysterious red object, a cursed friend and a set of powerful, unscrupulous enemies. Sometimes Camden shop owner and diviner, Alex Verus, wishes he hadn't got out of bed. He may be able to see into the future, but occasionally it would be useful to know what to do about it. Benedict Jacka popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: March 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Alex Verus runs a little shop in Camden, London selling magic tricks and bits and pieces. Some of the bits and pieces are a more magical than the magic tricks, for he is a diviner (someone who sees the future). Indeed, the day that his friend Luna finds a little red artefact, his ability comes in handy. There are some very powerful people looking for that little red 'thing'. Unfortunately they aren't powerful in a nice way and they're a jump or two ahead of Alex and Luna. For the powerful ones actually know what it is.
The front of this urban fantasy book is emblazoned with a ringing endorsement from, arguably, one of the best in the trade:. In turn, Benedict Jacka repays this with an in-joke mention of Harry Dresden at the beginning of the book, obliquely referring to the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. Now, being particularly partial to Mr Butcher (in a platonic, reading sense) I therefore expected great things of Benedict Jacka's first adult novel. I really wanted it be something special, but there's a bit of a setback.
Before we get to that, we'll start with the positive. I like Alex. He seems a good bloke to bump into down the pub. He's chatty (the whole book is written from his viewpoint, just as writes his urban fantasy character, Harry Dresden). Alex has a great sense of humour which is very similar to that of Harry Dresden. The Camden diviner also has an endearing vulnerability, unsure whether he'll always beat the odds, very much like... well, you get the idea. Basically Alex is a chip off the Dresden block, but he has a couple of things Harry doesn't.
Firstly, there's his friend Luna. Luna has been given an intriguing fantasy-world disability. Her family has been cursed for generations so that, basically, if anyone gets physically too close to Luna, bad things will happen to them, probably including death. The second thing that separates the Alex from the Harry is an inventive form of transport provided by another friend. I refer, of course, to Starbreeze. No, not a refugee from 'My Little Pony' but an Elemental: a being that can harness one of the elements, either wind, earth, water or fire. Starbreeze's talent is connected with wind, (stop smirking at the back) which means that she can sweep Alex up and deliver him miles away in a matter of seconds.
There are other areas in which this book shows huge promise. The climax, for instance, builds and builds into a long action sequence, layering in twists as it goes. The relationships are well presented throughout. I loved the way that Alex ignored the fourth wall and suggested to the readers that we may have spotted something before he did. There are even good reasons for us to be presented with a detailed back story, knowing all the time that this will come in handy later in the book. (The reason being this is what fantasy books do... it's the law.) So what went wrong? Well, for me the one thing that dragged it down were the lectures.
Perhaps I should elaborate. Every fan of fantasy (including me) realises that the writer's chosen world has to have rules and structure and the readers need to be aware of them. However, at intervals during that first third, it's almost as if Benedict Jacka has copied chunks from a fantasy encyclopaedia, to lecture the reader about definitions of certain mage/diviner genres and abilities etc. It does stop (thank goodness) but, whilst it's happening, it's a subtle as a brick. Also, as these learning opportunities appear in chunks, they stop the story stone dead. The momentum builds again and recovers once the Mage/Dark v Light 101 sessions have finished, but it's lost the book half a star. Sorry Benedict. Sorry Mr Butcher.
The publishers have great faith. By the end of September 2012 Alex Verus novels 2 and 3 will be with us and, as long as Fated has taught us all the fantasy faction that we need to know or the fantasopaedia will be more subtly intertwined next time, I'm really looking forward to bumping into Alex again.
If you've enjoyed this, then try something from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files perhaps Proven Guilty. If you enjoy urban fantasy but want to try something different, but similarly humorous, try Dead Men's Boots: A Felix Castor Novel by Mike Carey.
You can read more book reviews or buy Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Fated: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.com.
Benedict Jacka was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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