Alex Verus: Cursed by Benedict Jacka – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Cursed

Bane of Kings reviews book two in the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, entitled Cursed, published by Orbit Books.

“A fun, fast paced and entertaining urban fantasy novel that improves on the first book in many, many ways. Count me in for more Alex Verus!” ~The Founding Fields

I’ll confess, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Fated, Benedict Jacka’s debut. It came across as though the author was just trying to imitate Jim Butcher’s writing style – only set it in London, with similarities to Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series. And whilst the second book might not be the most original one ever, with some problems carrying over from the first (and a couple of new ones), it’s still a very firm and strong entry into the Alex Verus series and I’ll be around for Book Three for certain.

Benedict Jacka’s acclaimed Alex Verus series continues with Cursed.

Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex has been keeping his head down. But now he’s discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures—destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda. Hired to investigate, Alex realizes that not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power..

Whilst at first glance, Cursed sounds like your average urban fantasy fare, with nothing different from the first time around. However, you’d be wrong. This book improves on the first in a lot of ways – despite the fact that it adds a whole lot of new problems that I hope will be fixed in the third. Like the predecessor, however – the title of the book suggests that Curses will probably play a big part in this book, and this is where we get Luna, who takes centre stage – but this is also where one of the problems arises. Whilst Luna is a pretty strong character, and the chemistry between her and Alex is easy to see – it seems that in this novel at least, Jacka uses her to provide something for Alex to rescue. She fits the role of the damsel-in-distress cliché perfectly here, which is a shame, because otherwise I felt that her character was pretty fun, and entertaining to read about. In a way, she kind of reminds me of Rogue from the X-Men, although that’s probably because both women suffer from similar curses.

CursedJacka improves on the humour a lot in this book as well, with a great sequence fairly on in the narrative that briefly runs down Alex’s day in his shop, and his conversation with people who think that he’s a fake, and of course – there has to be a dig at Twilight thrown in there as well. This sequence was one of the highlights of the book for me – leaving Alex so annoyed with his customers that when the one that is actually serious turns up, he lists off everything that he’s encountered today in the hope that the other character will leave.

However, it seems – for everything that’s fun and awesome about this novel, there’s also another problem. The ending suffered from a deus ex machina, something that’s commonly found in the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who. You get all the way to the end, thinking how the protagonist will ever make it out of here in one piece, and then the end intervention seemingly underwhelms the book that came before it. In Doctor Who’s case, it was mostly solved by technobabble, and a time-reset. I won’t spoil what the deus ex machina really is though, but once more – it’s one of the flaws that prevented me from enjoying this novel even more than I did.

The action of Cursed is pretty awesome. Jacka knows how to write page-turning sequences, and writes them well – skillfully making the reader want to keep reading despite any problems that they may have with the book. Rather than become a chore to read because of its flaws, it’s something that’s incredibly easy to – and its short length allowed me to finish the book in a couple of sittings. People who enjoyed Fated should find something to like about Cursed as well, and I hope that people who weren’t so enthralled by the first novel will stick around to further the adventures of Alex Verus. Because, whilst it may not be the best urban fantasy series on the market today – it’s a pretty damn entertaining one, and incredibly fun.

VERDICT: 3.5/5

THE ALEX VERUS SERIES: Fated, Cursed, Taken, Chosen

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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