Book Review – Cursed by Benedict Jacka

My review of Cursed by Benedict Jacka

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/Benedict-Jacka/Cursed.html

In a world of Magic and Mages, 8 foot talking Spiders who make clothes fit for Kings & Queens, who would have thought you would need to be worried about rocket launchers, land minds, snipers and the apprentice’s new boyfriend. Alex is going to need to be on his toes for this one!

Finally on the good side of the Council Alex is hired to investigate mysterious attacks on the public. Alex will see old enemies return, secrets from the dark long hidden revealed and run from wish giving boxes; where some times you do get what you wish for, exactly what you wish for!

Alex is the only man for the job. Isn’t he lucky?

The second installment in the Alex Verus’ books ‘Cursed’ is beginning to feel like a more mature and well-rounded story, Jacka is giving us a greater view of his envisioned magical world, its people and history. We are starting to see well-cultivated elements of individuality and narrative that we had glimpsed of in ‘Fated’.

Now that Jacka has book one under his belt he is starting to establish the complexity and variety Magic in this world. The introduction of the Enchantress builds on the observation that Jacka’s magic is rooted in elemental and emotional magic. These new magical categories are descripted well and applied with good affect: something Alex can testify to from first hand experience.

One of my favourite elements of the books so far has been the use of ‘Elsewhere’; the world of nowhere and everywhere. I found this is a nice twist on a common theme – what you bring with you can kill you. There is a potential for something really gruesome to come from this place; something dark, twisted and truly Evil.

With the addition of a relatively simple magical concept, ‘Imbued’ magical items, these wares have the ability to be the salt and vinegar on our chips; it’s only a little extra something but it can add so much. I feel this embellishment can and will be developed into a key piece of the Alex Verus world, as evident in ‘Fated’ and Fateweaver.

This is a little silly but when I came across this in the story I thought cool so here is a little riddle as a teaser: Name me, “Breathe of fire, hide of iron, ageless, timeless, feared!” I can’t wait to see where this one goes, and no I not saying the word, you just have to read to find out for yourself.

Usually when you read this style of book the writer and genre has a tendency to relay on magic and magic alone for the hero to deal with the world and bad guys. Thankfully Jacka has blended nicely the use of modern day weapons; rocket launchers, sniper rifles and land mines to tell his story. The days are gone of besieging the castle with spells and big rocks. The character Verus mixes magic, guns and martial arts together into a formula that proves he is resourceful and has a foot in both magic and non-magic London. We also get to see the continuation of Verus’ growth, facing the horrors of his past and the scars left behind, channelling this new found confidence to defend those who cant defend themselves.

In this review and my previous on ‘Fated’ I did have a tendency to flip flop between the like and dislike of the magic style. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the style of magic portrayed. However, I found it’s a little hard accepting the evolution of Mage power for some if the characters. Sonder as a ‘Space Mage’ is too convenient, you just can’t have every flavour of Mage magic for every situation in the plot to suit the scene, its to hard a pill to swallow.

While I love the ‘Imbued’ items I found the use of the ‘Cat’s Paw’ plot to be fairly laboured; it took a very long time for the final nail to go into that particular coffin, rather than a slow burner it was more of a limp biscuit. Along this line is the use of ‘Gateways’, they are very Wheel of Time series and don’t really fit well into the world of Alex Verus in my opinion.

I know it’s a fairly common technique to prolong juicy shorelines and back-stories for some of the main characters, but we do need some tit-bits. Talisid? What’s his angle? Why is he helping Alex? What does he know about Alex’s old Master? Come on something, anything, would be good!

I know a good story needs an undercurrent, a constant and so far this has been sitting round the edginess of the Politics of Magical World and it isn’t an element and I am not in love. In its current format its more of a filler, there is no depth or level of intrigue.

In ‘Cursed’ we are starting to build into the back story and get some legs behind the world of Alex Verus, it’s still verging on a Dresden story but we are staring to see some breakout individuality. The more I read, the more I enjoy and the more I want to read.

7.5/10

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