Fated by Benedict Jacka
Just finished reading Fated by Benedict Jacka, a new urban fantasy series starring Alex Verus. Alex is a probability mage who runs a small magic shop out of Camden in London. He spends very little time in the world of magic, his apprenticeship didn’t go well and the magic Council are not exactly impressed with him, hence the need for him to keep a low profile. However his attempt at leading a quiet life are about to become a lot less easy, particularly as his talents as a seer are suddenly going to become greatly in demand from both light and dark mages. An ancient artefact has turned up at the British Museum and everyone is interested in accessing it’s secrets.
As first books in series goes this was very enjoyable. It obviously has similarities to other urban fantasy series and, in fact, contains a reference within the first few pages to a certain magician who advertises his investigative services in Chicago, but they are different enough to co-exist. Alex is not an investigator, his ability as a probability mage allows him to see the path that a course of action will lead to, he’s therefore very useful at predicting trouble before it arrives or finding the right course of action, he’s not however very powerful, in fact he’s rather vulnerable to be honest and has to rely on his wit and a few simple magical items or friends to keep him alive.
This book pretty much gets straight into the action and to a certain extent I think it relies on the fact that the readers will bring a certain level of knowledge to the reading. I quite liked that, we obviously have a certain amount of looking back and world building but no major info dumps which can be a bit of a dampner on the plot. It’s a fairly basic plot, not in a bad way, and also bearing in mind this is the first in the series. We have this relic and within it is contained an artefact of great magical import. The light and the dark mages are both in a fight to obtain the relic and claim it’s power for themselves and Alex is needed to help overcome the protections surrounding this object. I hope I haven’t given too much away there, I don’t want to spoil the plot after all.
The characters are an interesting bunch. I can’t say too much about Alex as I haven’t got a really strong feel for him yet. I like him but I’m waiting to read more before I get a fuller picture of his true identity. We have Luna, one of Alex’s friends whose family has a deadly curse upon it that has lasted for centuries and affects all who come into contact with the bearer. Then we have Starbreeze, an air elemental who Alex calls upon to help him out of a tight spot occasionally. She’s very whimsical and childlike and I like her. She’s simple and innocent.
I like the magical system that Jacka has set up. The Mages are not ‘all’ powerful. Their magic is usually focused in a particular way, for example fire, whereby a fire mage can manipulate, use and control fire. Alex is therefore a seer and this is the extent of his magical ability, he relies heavily on others for protection. On top of that we have the light and dark mages but this is in no way as black and white as it at first appears for whilst the dark mages can be quite evil and manipulative the light mages are definitely not knights in shining armour. The villains, the dark mages, are most assuredly an unfriendly bunch. They take what or whoever they want and the fact that they are able to take something merely reflects the weakness in whatever it is they take, therefore if they don’t take it someone else will.
In terms of criticisms, well, I wouldn’t say that I truly understood everything around the light and dark mages but I guess this will be explored in future novels, for me they come across at this point not so much as light and dark more bad and badder! I’m not exactly clear either about developments at the end of the book but I don’t want to really go into that further for fear of plot spoilers. No major criticisms really. Probably the only irritation I had was initially to do with Alex who, appeared to be incredibly lax in terms of his own safety and the security of his place – particularly when he seemed to have a good idea what he was up against and also given his own abilities which he, admittedly, under utilised at the beginning.
Other than that this is a good start to the series. It was a quick read and the last third I found really engaging in a sort of explorer/Indiana Jones type of way. Yes, you could compare this – the Dresden Files, the Druid Chronicles or even Rivers of London – and there are obvious similarities but that being said I think it stands on it’s own. If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy this could be the one for you.