Benedict Jacka brings to life a uniquely entertaining urban fantasy in his Alex Verus Novels. Fated, the premiere to the series, is the perfect introduction to a London where things aren’t always what they seem. Filled with intrigue, suspense, and plenty of action, Fated is the perfect mix of substance and fun.
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….
Jacka has created a truly stellar character in Alex Verus. Truly multi-dimensional, Alex is not the ordinary guy. His past and his gifts shape him into a man which I find myself wishing existed. A man who would be the perfect friend and in his inwardly dorky way is perfectly imperfect. While I find Alex to be utterly charming, it is his magic that I found to be the most interesting. Alex’s ability is divination and not the fortune teller or Harry Potter type. Instead, Jacka’s brand of divination is essentially pathwalking. Alex goes through future actions without moving a muscle and it is with skill that Alex is able to see the best possible future. It helps him countless times; whether it was knowing what a customer in his magic shop wanted or which path to take in a life or death maze. Character creation is one of Jacka’s strong suites and Alex, while endearing, isn’t the most unique. Instead Jacka brings to life a kaleidoscope of different magical beings and creatures; which while they may take root in a genre standard, maintain distinct identities. From Arachne, the wardrobe-making giant spider to Thirteen the deadly air elemental, you won’t disappointed.
Jacka’s writing style is expertly matched with full realization of his alternate London. Through the self-deprecating narration of Alex, Jacka brings a fast paced, balanced tone of seriousness and lightheartedness. Through this method, each aspect of the magical world is explained. It is sheer talent that makes this explanation sound less like a condescending teacher and more like a knowing friend who is trying to fill you in on what you missed; be it the expansive magical powers, the hierarchy of mages or the battle between Light and Dark, we learn about it all. Jacka executes his clear vision with a level of bookish swank which truly makes Fated a great read.
There are so many aspects of this novel I love but one of them is how Jacka manages to effortlessly glide between action and dialogue. This shows itself most evidently as Alex is recruited by not one but three parties for his divination skill. One of my favorite scenes is early on when a so called recruiter decides to take Alex by force and through stealth and wit, Alex manages to get out without a scratch.
There are so many other gems in this book it is hard to pick just one. Alex’s favorite mode of travel is with the help of an air elemental. Not only does this make me cry out in envy but with Jacka’s ethereal passages describing this, I felt as if part of me was experiencing it. The definition of how Alex sees the future is not only clear and concise but downright cool. Even with the introduction of elements that seem tired, like the dream world of Elsewhere, Jacka transports the reader to a place that is truly his own. With every page I found myself enchanted by charm; whether it was how Alex subtlety equates creatures of his world to Lovecraft’s or Jacka describes character’s appearances but truly defines them by their actions.
An urban fantasy for everyone, Fated has a very Dresden appeal. Without the hindrance of forced romances or action, Jacka masterfully lets his character live through his writing, letting the story evolve as it sees fit. With this one book, Benedict Jacka became one of my favorite authors and Alex Verus a character for the ages. Fated is a rare book, one that gladly made me a true fan and might just do the same for you.