Skip to main content

Review: Alex Verus series *****

There are broadly two types of urban fantasy. Ones where the setting is primarily the normal world, intruded on by the fantasy - think, for example, of fantasy books where conventional police officers investigate supernatural crimes - and ones where there is a parallel magical society. The latter was the case with the Harry Potter books, and is also what we find in Benedict Jacka's excellent Alex Verus books. This series, beginning with Fated, is now complete with Risen, its twelfth title, which seemed an excellent point to review it.

I was a touch suspicious about this 'new master of magical London' tagline that appears on some of the books - apart from anything, I'm fed up with urban fantasy books set in London. But Jacka gives us something genuinely original. This is a society where the small, magically endowed subset of the population is impressively self-centred. I'd go so far as to say that most of them are psychopaths. But the central character, Alex Verus is different. He is considerate of others and as a mage, in theory a more senior figure in the magical establishment, he tries to help the lesser adepts and apprentices.

Unlike many of the others with magical abilities we come across, Verus has relatively weak abilities, unable to form a shield or attack with some form of force - instead, he is a 'diviner' who can see possible futures, using them to anticipate what others will do.

Jacka manages the difficult balance in a series of this length of giving each book a satisfactory storyline that comes to an end, while maintaining a series arc across the whole thing as we see Verus rise in magical society, discover more about his past and gradually accept his own personality. At the same time, he develops a Scooby gang of weaker individuals (the parallels with Buffy are quite strong in some ways, including the way that the central character transforms) who he nurtures, and one of whom he falls in love with (though we spot this long before he does).

The final book ties things up well with some dramatic twists, especially in the way it plays with first person narrative towards the end. A powerful series that keeps up the pace without the series droop that is common with a run of this length. Recommended (reading the books in order is essential, though).

Fated is available from Bookshop.orgAmazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope