Fated (Alex Verus #1) by Benedict Jacka
Publisher: Ace/Feb. 2012
Alex Verus series
Kind thanks to Ace for providing a review copy
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…
There’s a blurb on the front of Fated by Jim Butcher, and I’ll admit, it went a ways toward me reading the book. Don’t get me wrong, the book sounded great, but Benedict Jacka is a new author, so it definitely helped. That said, Fated is a bit like the Dresden Files, but really only in the fact that Alex Verus is a wizard, or mage, and Alex’s voice is is a similar mix of easygoing and tightly coiled power. Alex is a diviner, able to see the many possible outcomes and paths of a situation. Usually. He’s not all-powerful, but he’s pretty darn powerful, and he’s done his best not to cross paths with the Council, running a magic shop in Camden Town, in London. Staying under the radar has done well for him, but when various mages (Light and Dark), come to him seeking his services, he finds himself back under the very thumb that he escaped years ago.
The author packs quite a bit of storytelling into just under 300 pages, and does it very effectively. I liked Alex immediately, and found his power fascinating. There’s some mild tension between Alex and his friend Luna, who’s carrying a very powerful curse, and she’ll turn out to be a valuable ally in the battle to come. And there will be battle. There’s a powerful artifact that more than a few powerful mages want to get their hands on, and they’ll use any manner of coercion, arm twisting, and just plain nastiness to get Alex to snag it for them. The main group of Dark mages that Alex deals with are really just plain mean, and I found myself wishing that Alex could just kick ‘em in the mouth. Multiple times. With feeling. It doesn’t help that Alex is carrying around a little baggage of his own, having been at the mercy of a Dark mage himself when he was younger. Yeah, the Dark mages like to keep slaves, er, helpers, and they’re extremely cruel about it. Can you say torture chambers? So, you can understand why Alex isn’t too keen on “helping” any of these guys out. On the charming side, we’re also introduced to some really neat creatures, and the world that the author has created is definitely one I’ll want to visit again. Fated is a strong start to what looks to be a magical series!