Alex Verus #4: Chosen by Benedict Jacka – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Chosen

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Chosen, the latest novel to feature Mage Alex Verus, written by Benedict Jacka as part of an Urban Fantasy series published by Orbit Books. The fourth book in the series, Chosen follows on from the events of Fated, Cursed and Taken. All books are currently available to purchase.

“A fun and entertaining urban fantasy that although doesn’t quite match the heights of authors like Aaronovitch and Butcher is still a strong read and another enjoyable outing for Alex Verus. Four books in and the series keeps feeling fresh.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

I don’t publicly advertise that I’m a mage, but I don’t exactly hide it either, and one of the odd things I’ve learnt over the years is just how much you can get away with if you’re blatant enough. Hide something behind smoke and mirrors and make people work to find it, and they’ll tear the place down looking for what’s there.

Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures—a talent that’s gotten him out of many a tough scrape. But this time, he may be in over his head. Alex was once apprenticed to a Dark mage, and in his service he did a lot of things he isn’t proud of.

As rumors swirl that his old master is coming back, Alex comes face to face with his misdeeds in the form of a young adept whose only goal is to get revenge. Alex has changed his life for the better, but he’s afraid of what his friends—including his apprentice, Luna—will think of his past. But if they’re going to put themselves at risk, they need to know exactly what kind of man they’re fighting for…

By book four in any series, I think it’s fair to say that if the next book in the series is released and you’ve enjoyed the previous three novels then you’re going to crave in and get this one. However, it’s safe to say that this particular series isn’t the best Urban Fantasy out there on the market. Jim Butcher, Ben Aaronovitch, Tom Pollock and more have all put out better works than Benedict Jacka but there’s something about this series that keeps me coming back to read every installment. It’s addictive reading – I can always flip through these books a lot quicker than I do books by other authors. Jacka is a strong writer and whilst this series may not be the most original on the market the end result is always going to be fun and enjoyable – and although Chosen may not quite be the best novel in the series (In my opinion, that award goes to Taken) – it’s still a compelling and engaging read that’s very unputdownable.

ChosenThe book itself reads like a thriller novel. It’s fast paced, features lots of stuff happening and is essentially your average airport thriller read with urban fantasy elements. The book itself is also flashback heavy – exploring Alex’s past on a deeply personal level. We get to see what he did when he was a Dark Mage’s apprentice and it provides emotional weight to the storyline that’s taking place on the current events. The character exploration of Alex Verus further flushes his character out into more detail as well as expanding his group of friends in more depth. Like Harry Dresden in the later books, Alex now has a dependable amount of friends to rely upon , and it’s nice to see them developing more in this book as well. Luna for example, who we’ve known since Book One has become more confident in using her powers. She’s been fleshed out and I think both characters have grown stronger as a result. This is the novel that makes Alex a bit more different than your stock Urban Fantasy Wizard lead character, and it’s nice to see that Jacka has made him a bit more intriguing and interesting than in previous novels where he felt like a weak ripoff of Harry Dresden.

Whilst the book can be read on it’s own, I’d recommend knowledge of the previous Alex Verus books first. It always helps coming into a fourth book in a series when you’re already familiar with the characters by this point. Out of the four this is by far the darkest book that we’ve had – and that’s no surprise given that the large amount of this novel goes down a darker path. It makes a change from the lighter route that the previous novels have taken and provides a nice change in direction of the series. It still remains fun and enjoyable though – and the switch to a darker tone doesn’t feel jarringly out of place. It’s got me more invested in the characters than the previous books have done and although Chosen can’t quite match the strong novel that was Taken – at least in my opinion, it still remains an interesting read and is far from the worst novel that this series has given us.

Overall then, Chosen is novel that sets a darker tone for the series providing an interesting read. It manages to remain fresh and engaging – a page-turning read. However it still hasn’t completley shaken off the problems that the previous novels have had to offer and whilst some steps have been made in the right direction it still feels like we’ve been down this route before. However, I’m going to be on board for book number five – which according to Goodreads will hit shelves sometime next year, and it will be interesting to see where Jacka takes the character next now that I have caught up on the series.

VERDICT: 3/5

THE ALEX VERUS NOVELS: 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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