Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.
But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…
Urban Fantasy is a comfort genre to me. It’s the genre that I know that when I just want something to read that I know I’ll enjoy I’ll turn to. The best of the genre display all the creativity that other parts of fantasy can, but without the super-heavy plots that may or may not require flow-charts to follow. And because urban fantasy is as often about the city its set in, there is a good deal of flexibility in what the stories can entail. For example, this one has no vampires and no romance, but instead has an enjoyable take on magic and wizardry.
Like so many worlds, the wizards have divided themselves into two camps: the Light and the Dark. The Dark about your typical evil wizards: rule by force and immensely powerful, but are so paranoid that they tend to keep their own numbers in check. The Light wizards are ostentatiously the good guys, but through Alex’s slightly cynical eyes we see them more as pragmatists. If you can’t beat them, tolerate them. As long as they keep the kidnapping, torture and slavery to their side of the playground, they put up with them. They’re hardly knights in shining armor, but the reader can appreciate such a set-up, even if Alex (understandably) cannot. As a result, that leaves Alex a bit of a rogue to boot, neither liked nor trusted by either side, until he one day becomes invaluable.
He’s a diviner, he reads the future. Though he can read things like cards, he actually instead views all of the thousands of possibilities for consequences of actions he takes uses that knowledge to try and move ahead. And to compensate for that skill, he can do zero practical magic. His power is in information, and just like it with us humans, information is power and it does give him leverage. And while such a gift sounds like it can be used to make him all powerful, I do think Jacka does a good job of reigning it in making it so he has an edge, but not that he’s cheating. Even more importantly, when he’s unable to read, it feels natural enough to seem like an actual limitation on his abilities versus the author just putting in an invisible wall to stop the action.
The other thing I like in this book are some of the side characters, name Luna and Arachne. Luna is a girl whose family was cursed, and the curse is one that ultimately protects her by sending the harm that would befall her to others around her, forcing her to isolate herself so she doesn’t injure anyone. It’s really one of the most clever curses I’ve seen in fantasy in quite some time. I hope she gets fleshed out a bit more in future books. As for Arachne, no she’s not named after the myth, she probably was the inspiration for the myth.
And a giant spider.
A giant spider that’s a seamstress. Creepy. But honestly awesome.
Like a lot of Urban Fantasy series that are initially released in mass paperback form, these books are being released twice a year in an open-ended series. Book six was just released yesterday and book seven is already being planned for a 2016 release. I generally do try to avoid such open-ended series, but for now I’m in. This series won’t necessarily be my go-to recommendation for Urban Fantasy, but it’s definitely one of the better series I’ve started in a while. Fans of Urban Fantasy should definitely enjoy this, and I’d say it’s not a bad entry point into the genre as a whole.
Verdict: Buy It