Book Review – Hidden by Benedict Jacka

My review of Hidden by Benedict Jacka 6/10

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

Do you stop caring for the people in your life when they don’t want anything to do with you? Angry and declaring Alex a monster, Sonder and Anne cannot see past the difficult choices Alex had to make in his past when there were no good ones left. The world is not as simple as black and white, but layers of grey, complex and twisting.

When Anne goes missing, and whether she still thinks they are friends or not, Alex will do whatever it takes to find and rescue her, but enemies old, new and some long buried resurface along the way, terrifying Alex to his core.

It’s a great view from up here on my pedestal, as they say. My glibness comes from the view that I really cannot appreciate the reasoning for this particular addition to the Alex Verus universe.

The issues I had with the story was a continual sense of repetition of plot, characters and themes, mixed with only a small amount of original content.  —Spoiler— In Hidden, we have the re-emergence of Crystal, the Mage who originally kidnapped Anne in order to drain her life force doing the same thing again but in a slightly different setting. —End Spoiler

The original content when it does appears, I enjoyed the best mostly concerned the possibility of Alex’s old Dark Master Richard returning as well as the final chapters regarding the rescue of Anne, all of which are written well and I couldn’t fault.   However, even the new characters felt like copies of other villains we have seen, apprentices working for Dark Mage Masters, stupid and drunk with power.

While I think a certain reuse of core themes is important and wanted, Hidden feels more like Taken (book, #3), but now with some of Alex’s friends pissed off at him and a few not having much to do. As a big fan I was hoping for a little more.

I may have begun this review with some issues, but don’t get me wrong, Jacka’s writing is still familiar, flowing and smooth, providing a rich, fully cemented character and story structure, which does make up for the story’s pace and lack of variety. It could best be described in terms of a slope graph with a 10% incline with an occasion short blip (you will have to get through the first five chapters -nearly half the book- before you get some magical/physical action), before spiking to 100 in the last few chapters.

The new concepts as well as the expansion of some old elements are done well. The idea behind the blink fox was a particular aspect that I enjoyed greatly and can see much fun coming from the fox/Alex interaction. There is some solid emotional expression, which reads wonderfully in the why of Sonder’s and Anne’s angry with Alex.

The same can also be said for the action scenes when they do occur, one which particularly stands out, —Spoiler— is when Alex is squaring off against Sagash’s apprentice trying and finding a way into the Shadow Realm, the combat is direct, fierce and well written. Just the way it should be. —End Spoiler

In this the fifth book we begin to get a deeper look into the world & politics of the dark mages, best described as, Power is not given but taken. If you can’t keep it, then you don’t deserve it. There is a simplicity in how the dark mages interact which comes across well in the story line and character interactions. Sometime author’s can write there villains a little too Machiavellian when it’s not really needed or wanted.

At its heart, I feel this story would shine all the brighter as a Novella, highlighting the return of Richard, Alex’s old Master, and the fear and anxiety it causes him, adding the stress factor of Anne’s kidnapping and rescue.

Friend, enemy, villain or hero. When your friends cannot tell you which they think you are, do you leave them to their faith or risk everything to show them who you truly are.

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

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