Alex Verus: Fated by Benedict Jacka – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Fated, the first novel in the new Alex Verus series, published by Orbit Books and written by Benedict Jacka.
“Fun to read, but sadly does not bring anything new to the genre.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve been waiting to read Benedict Jacka’s Fated for a long time now, ever since the endorsment by Jim Butcher and the awesome premise of the novel, as well as the suprisingly enjoyable cover-art. However, as I am writing this review, with the sound of Two Steps From Hell’s Invincible album ringing in my ears, I am going to confess that I was dissapointed with Fated, the chief reason probably being that I set my expectations way too high. Have a look at the plot summary (no spoilers) below:
Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle, and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer. In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won’t sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you’re looking for, he might just be able to help. That’s if he’s not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light, and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.
Let’s start where I think Benedict Jacka’s first adult novel (He’s written for children too) went wrong. One of the reasons why I didn’t like it was that in my opinion at least, it’s just too short, and whilst I was reading it on an e-reader of a family relative, the page count for Fated clocked in at 240ish pages, and that’s just the Ibooks version. I felt it was just too short, and although, even being the first in a ‘major new series’, it effectivley worked as a standalone book that I think could, and probably should have been a lot longer.
On the other hand though, Fated is enjoyable. Although it’s not the best novel out there, it’s far from the worst. I enjoyed it, and was kept entertained from the first page to the last. Fated is above all else, a fun read – and this is what kept me reading the first Alex Verus novel, and will probably be the reason why I will find myself getting the second upon its release.
Let’s take a look at the main character, Alex(ander) Verus, who is the narrator of the book which is entirely first person. Although Alex is likeable enough to root for, he does at times feel like a clone of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, who is the main star of the Dresden Files, which is arguably the best urban fantasy series EVER. There, I’ve said it. Which is why I was pleased to find out that in Fated, there’s a homage to Dresden that has been recieving mixed reactions accross the blogsphere (See this for an example):
“I’ve even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under ‘Wizard’, though that’s probably an urban legend.”
Although to some this may feel like you’re just reading Dresden Files-fanfiction, don’t be put off by it. Whilst this novel lacks in originality and sadly does not bring anything new to the genre, it does have a varied supporting cast that are each creative and likeable characters, including but not restricted to Luna, a young woman who is a friend of Alex and has the unfortunate fate of being bound by a curse that causes anybody that gets too close to her to become unlucky, Starbreeze, Arachne and others, each of whom are different and have the potential to be flushed out in more detail in the upcoming books.
The pace is fast, fast enough to have you turning pages in order to find out what happens next, and is pretty fast throughout the whole novel. There isn’t any bits where you feel like skipping a couple of pages because you feel that the novel drags out enough, and although the plot is fairly simple, you will still find yourself enjoying the novel through the strength of the characters and the style of writing. If you’re a fan of Ben Aaronovitch or Jim Butcher you might like Fated, and if you’re not, you probably should give it a go anyway, although it’s recommended cautiously.
At the moment I’m currently reading MLN Hanover’s (Daniel Abraham) Unclean Spirits, which is again, urban fantasy, so we’ll see how it turns out and then I’ll review it once I’ve finished it. At the moment I’m liking Unclean Spirits better, but I’ve only just started it so we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the novel turns out.