Hidden: An Alex Verus novel by Benedict Jacka
|Hidden: An Alex Verus novel by Benedict Jacka|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Alex Verus is back for his fifth urban fantasy outing. It's not quite as action packed as the last book but only because action has been replaced with insight. All in all, this one is for the fans.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: September 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Anne Walker, life mage and former good friend of Camden magic shop owner/future diviner Alex Verus is in trouble. Alex would love to help her but first he has to find her. Meanwhile his guilty past as a dark mage apprenticed to the less-than-nice Richard Drakh has come back to haunt him. In fact there are rumours that Richard himself is coming back to haunt Alex personally as Richard's more than mildly miffed about Alex's betrayal. Hang on Alex – it's going to be a bumpy ride!
British author Benedict Jacka may have started writing Alex Verus #1 in the school library while still a sixth-former but he's grown alongside his hero. Over the novels he's not only found his stride but a definite style that launches him high into the urban fantasy stratosphere as firmly as his idol, Jim Butcher who now admires him in return.
Hidden starts a year or so after Chosen ended, bringing Alex back into contact with former friends and enemies. The 'hidden' person for instance, Anne, is a woman who lived with him platonically for a little while with an unfulfilled frisson of perhaps.
Alex feels a little awkward about the way that their ways parted as Anne (a healer by nature) took exception to Alex's growing body count. He's therefore a little reluctant when his apprentice Luna sends him to her flat to offer wise counsel. However, this eventually turns into a rescue attempt forcing him to work with the Council's Keepers (mage police to the rest of us) Caldera and Sonder. (Caldera… remember the Jim Butcher connection I mentioned?)
All the usual ingredients of an Alex Verus are there: magic, wry humour and action. In this case, though, the balance and proportions are a little different. There doesn't seem to be as much action as there has been in some past volumes. Having said that, this isn't a complaint as Benedict uses the pages for something else just as rewarding; we learn more about Alex himself.
We know that Alex hasn't always been on the side of the light. We realise that, as a young person, he dabbled with darkness via Richard. Yet we don't know a lot about his childhood or what led him to that point. In Hidden Benedict lifts the veil and Alex reveals more. We even get to spend time with Mr Verus senior who demonstrates that Alex isn't exactly a chip off the old block.
There's more – these aren't the end of the insights. We're taught more about the way that Alex's talent for future divination works (or doesn't work) as well as witnessing another sojourn into the useful dream world of Elsewhere.
When I spoke to Benedict back in February 2013 he seemed disappointed that no one at that time seemed to be asking questions about this place Alex goes when he sleeps. Having read more of the series since and seeing it develop a more prominent role, I now rather wish I had!
Everything builds to an action packed crescendo befitting Benedict's talents and the expectations he's cultivated within us. (Talking of which, this is where I insert my usual plea that series like this should be read in order.) Hidden seems to divide the fans though; some lapping up every word while others feel something may be missing. Me? I can understand both viewpoints but I'm going to stick my neck out with an Alex-type prediction. When we look back at the series in the future I think we'll remember Hidden for what it revealed and what it began rather than for the comparative lack of set pieces or even for that exciting and hugely satisfying ending. Having been there at the time for it is kind of cool. (What do you mean it's just a story??)
Thank you to the folk at Orbit for feeding our Alex Verus addiction.
Further Reading: If you haven't read all the, that's the place to start. If you're already up to speed, we can also heartily recommend The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides) by Mur Lafferty for something a little bit different in urban fantasy.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hidden: An Alex Verus novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hidden: An Alex Verus novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.com.
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