My review of Taken by Benedict Jacka
In most good fantasy novels we have the Light and Dark side but the heroes we love best are those who walk the grey areas between. We don’t want perfect, up-standing citizens, we want a hero who knows right from wrong but who can also see that sometimes doing a bad thing for a good reason is called for. In Taken we really begin to see Alex come into his own, he is more confident and sure in his actions and it reflects well on the page. Alex continues to grow as character, his motivations feel more real and you can begin to empathise with the person portrayed and the challenges he is are facing. He doesn’t mind crossing that line when needed.
In Taken Alex is propositioned by a beautiful women to come to her aid. And in the best noir custom you know she is either soon to die or is the villain. I do love a little bit of the old school femme fatal…
This installment doesn’t have the same degree of action as the previous novels but what it lacks in this area it makes up in suspense and drama. The fight scenes we do get are written well and imaginative; Luna with a bullwhip of her luck is a very nice construct, and I can see some real fun coming with this.
Luna as a character is beginning to develop in her own right, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with her. However, I did find some of the fight scenes very ‘Harry Potter’; dueling at 50 paces, wands at the ready in one scene, maybe Jacka can skip that in the next book.
Be aware this book isn’t big; there is a tendency that when an author begins a series the story begins a little small and in each new novel they increase in size. Jacka has kept this series a nice manageable weekend read in length. The story is engaging and sets a good pace, you don’t feel like there is much fluff in the pages to fill it out and each chapter holds well to the story. I would rather be reading these smaller releases each year than one larger piece released once a year.
In each book Jacka introduces us to new magical abilities and I haven’t always been a fan of some of these magic’s styles given to us, but the introduction of ‘Life’ magic is a welcome addition. There is a real potential here for an awesome or fearsome power; the ability to heal or drain life from people would be both fantastic and frightening. I hope we get to see more of this in later books.
As well as the introduction of new magic Jacka has introduced us to a new creature, a ‘Tigerman’; a relic from the old world of India, dressed in expensive suits and with a hatred of the magic councils for past wrongs. I hope he keeps this up and maintains the different flavour of creatures coming. The interactions between Alex and the Tigerman are well written and adds depth to the world of Alex Verus. This creature is old, powerful, and a little bit peeved and not the less bit worried about Alex; it’s always good to add a little uncertainty for your hero.
A negative – and it’s not really a true negative – is the bad guy. When it’s finally revealed I got goose bumps, this is the bad guy that should scare bad guys. Think a mix of Freddy, Jason and the monster under the bed when you were five; I just wish there was more of it as it’s not until the last section of the book that they make their entrance. There is some wiggle room with the ending and I think that we may or may not see them come back. My hope is they will make an appearance later. One of the dark side guys, Onyx, makes an appearance alongside the bad guy and a fight ensues but unfortunately we don’t get any narrative when they do but I wish there was as that would have been awesome!
I was hoping something like this wasn’t going to show up as its just very predictable in modern fantasy: Vampires. Simply said I hope they don’t show up much more!
I good little weekend read that is starting to gather some steam. Fast paced suspenseful fantasy thriller. Recommended.
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