|Taken: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Alex Verus is back in his best adventure to date. Author Benedict Jacka has found his feet and delivers a ripping, action packed novel that's an indulgent treat for urban fantasy fans. Benedict Jacka popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: September 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Alex Verus, future-diviner and erstwhile Camden magic shop owner has dusted himself off after the rigours of Cursed and is good to go once more. He continues training Luna as his apprentice but all is not completely well. Alex has been asked to investigate the disappearance of apprentices by Council representative, Talisid. Now, Alex's involvement with the Council (and indeed Talisid) hasn't always been good for Alex's health in the past, but his commissioning may be a sign of his enhanced reputation and this time there's a note of self-interest: Luna may be the next to vanish. Alex receives a tip-off that Fountain's Reach (a stately home with a mysterious past) has something to do with it and, as luck would have it, it's also the venue for the next apprentice tournament which Luna has entered. The investigation begins and hopefully they'll survive to see it through to the end.
Benedict Jacka, the guy who started writing the first Alex Verus book at the age of 19 in a school exercise book in his school library is back with the third. He's obviously matured over the years as it's what people tend to do, but so has his writing, demonstrated by the fact that Taken is by far the best of his offerings to date. The most notable difference being that Benedict has emerged from the shadow of author and major influence Jim Butcher to find his own style.
Book two, Cursed was definitely better than Alex Verus's debut, Fated but he still came across as a British Harry Dresden. However, now we see Alex as a compelling character in his own right. He maintains his pronounced sense of humour, but the quip quotient has been reduced, making him seem less self-conscious. Also he still gets in to scrapes which is great as Benedict has a talent for writing action sequences (as seen in the exciting climaxes of both the previous books). However now the cinema-graphic quality action scenes are liberally scattered throughout the story. If you need an example of that, then the Jaguar/M4 motorway/re-animated life forms scene is a master class in combining humour with excitement without losing pace.
Not everything's changed though, some factors remain reassuringly constant. Arachne is back in business, Luna continues to carry a curse that will kill a tactile person as soon as look at them and poor Sonder continues to hope that one day he'll be used to his full potential. More dangerously, Alex continues to work with those of a darker motivation. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't but the books are written in such a way that we can't predict the danger or which of the potential baddies will be his malevolent nemesis this time around.
I miss Starbreeze, the ditzy elemental (as does Alex) but there's the bonus of new people like Anne, the apprentice who has the sort of healing gift that anyone would find useful. In some ways she's a bit of a 'get out of jail free' card but this can be forgiven, considering the smorgasbord of distraction laid before us.
Does Taken work as a stand-alone novel? Yes, but why would you want to avoid Alex's past? My advice would be, while you're waiting for Alex Verus #4 (due out mid-2013), read from the beginning and see how much the seer has grown. And my advice to Harry Dresden? Move over; there's another urban fantasy hero in the top echelon and, just like Carey's Felix Castor, Griffin's Matthew Swift and Aaronovitch's Peter Grant, he's a Brit.
I would like to thank Orbit for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.
Our recommendation would be to go through the Jacka back catalogue to fill in the gaps. If you're already a fan, then dip into some of the other good stuff around, for instance the aforementioned Jim Butcher, Kate Griffin and Mike Carey.
You can read more book reviews or buy Taken: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Taken: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka at Amazon.com.
Benedict Jacka was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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