Book Review – Fated by Benedict Jacka

My review of Fated by Benedict Jacka

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

Hidden in the lanes and byways of Camden London sits a shop, just a little shop, but if you know where to find it and have need of something a little magical, then the Arcana Emporium is the place for you. The owner already knows you are on the way; being able to see into the future helps with that.

Alex Verus has hidden from the world for many years, but old wounds scar the longest and one-time friends and new enemies will come knocking.

The forces of Dark and Light want Alex and his unique abilities and neither side is taking no as an answer.

Alex will need quick wits, luck and good friends to come out of this one. I guess Alex didn’t see this one coming.

The best way to do something that is painful is to do it quickly, so as the quote goes; time to rip the plaster off (band aid for the Americans) in one go…

No disrespect is meant Benedict Jacka but Fated is Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden but set in the UK. The writing, culture and magic are incredibly similar to the Dresden Files that the first time I read the blurb I thought I was reading a spin-off series. While you may be warranted in thinking this is bad thing, it’s not, so keep reading…

Jacka has brought a world of Magic with its own flavour to the story of Alex Verus. The similarities in the writing style between Jacka and Butcher allow you to feel like you know the people and world laid out before you, there is even a nice one liner about Dresden in the first chapter; I won’t spoil that for you.

The best way I can describe this congruence is I remember watching an interview with Patrick Stewart once. He was saying he had just finished his first season of Star Trek and was at home watching TV when the first episode of Red Dwarf came on. After watching he was going to call his agent as he felt it was copying Next Generation. However, after thinking about it, he could see while they had similar themes and concepts they were very different. It’s in this tone that Jacka and Alex Verus sits.

Jacka has written a story that is smooth and easy to read with enough differences that you don’t feel like you are reading Jim Butcher.

The strengths for me in how Jacka has written Alex Verus, is the characters personality. He has portrayed Verus as a survivor, a man who knows his own weakness and can overcome them or make use of them as desired. Verus is not a man who is afraid to defend himself, even to the death, or a man afraid to run when faced with odds greater than he can handle.

Jacka has based the Alex Verus books is Camden London and has written the scenery in such a way he makes it feel real and true. It’s in this aspect I think Jacka surpasses Butcher. In Dresden’s Chicago you don’t get that feeling of reality (which isn’t a bad thing), its feels more like Metropolis or Gotham City – the world of everyday people is veiled and the magic world sits on top.

The story has a good introduction to the world of Mages and Magic and is nicely detailed in the nuances of this universe. The different evolution of Mage powers is quite nice, there is an Elemental quality to each Mages ability and how it is used.

I did find Verus’s power of divination magic a little contrite. While I can see the attempt at practical application I found it a little bit of a stretch. For example when Verus is “cracking” a pin code. Starting with a standard number pad and not repeating digits, for a 6 digit pin code, Verus would need to look into 150,000 futures (as that how many different sequences are available) for the correct sequence. Practically this would take a very long time, which is not portrayed, and yes I can see I am being little picky. In the end I just gave myself over to the story and accepted the magic.

In any good story you want the bad guys to give you goose bumps and I just didn’t get that feeling – there is a good goosebump bad guy in book three but you have to wait until the final chapters. However, there are several questionable individuals Verus comes up against you wouldn’t to meet down a dark alley. The introduction of Mage Politics, Dark and Light Mages adds to the depth of story. I do feel we are still in the waiting period for the ghosts of Verus past to give us a truly goosebump bad guy.

I love the Dresden Files and I feel I have come across a story that can give me the same feeling. I picked up this book on a Thursday, started reading it on Friday and was finished it by Sunday. The books are not long, but there a great little read.

8/10

For even more reviews, author interviews and biographies, check out the site Fantasy Book Review.

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