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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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I enjoyed this introductory volume to what looks set to be a lengthy series (three volumes out now, September 2012). It's an action packed, none too cerebral, introduction to the Magical World of Alex Verus: shops selling magical paraphernalia, a Curse, elementals, good mages and bad, an ineffectual Council that won't stand up to the villains - and a climax that reads a bit like a Dungeons and Dragons scenario.

Yes, it may all sound a bit like Harry Potter grown up - especially that sub-plot about how the Dark mages are getting a foothold because the authorities prefer to look the other way - but I'm inclined to the view that's simply because both worlds are well grounded in human nature and the realities of politics. It's a good read and a promising start, generally well written, with only one flaw from my perspective - the continual use of "gotten" and "it fit" (rather than "fitted") by a British character. POssibly that reflects a target market in the US, but it still grates.
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on 21 June 2012
Alex Verus is a mage, a diviner, who owns a shop; `Arcana Emporium' in Camden, London and when the story starts life is going smoothly for him. He is on reasonably good terms with the Council and occasionally working for them, and the work with his cursed apprentice Luna is proceeding quite nicely as well.
Things are about to change though.
It all starts with the discovery of a death magical creature. Although it is unclear how it was killed, it is a worrying sight.
Although Alex doesn't realise it, things slip further downhill when Martin, a new friend of Luna's visits his shop and walks away with the magic Monkey Paw Alex didn't have out on display because he knows the artefact is cursed.
Next a beautiful woman bursts into his shop followed by an assassin Alex is only barely able to fend off. The woman, Meredith, is an enchantress and although Alex is well aware of her seductive powers he has a hard time thinking straight when he is around her.
Through Meredith Alex meets Belthas, a Council mage, who wants his help in discovering who killed the magical creature and where they are now.
Next thing Alex knows he has fallen out with his apprentice, who now prefers Martin's company after Martin has used the monkey paw to find a way to be close to her without hurting himself. Up against old adversaries and with his friend, Arachne, a giant, intelligent, magical and very friendly spider in mortal danger, Alex finds himself in a fight he and those he cares for may well not survive. Alex may well be able to look into the future, knowing who to trust is much harder.

This is the second Alex Verus story I've read this year and I have to say I'm really enjoying them. It is clear to see why these books are endorsed by Jim Butcher; Alex Verus has a lot in common with Butcher's hero Harry Dresden. Both are outsiders and underdogs trying to fight the good fight against the odds and often through means they don't feel good about. And both the Verus and the Dresden series combine humour with tension in a way that really works.
The world Alex Verus inhabits in London is completely recognisable, which makes it easy to accept the supernatural elements in the story. The world Benedict describes is almost exactly the same as the world we live in. In fact, the differences between his London and the city we might visit are so tiny that you could almost believe that the magic can really be found there, if only you looked hard enough.
Although this is very much a supernatural thriller, enough attention is paid to the characters and what makes them tick to create a real interest in their welfare. Although Alex is the hero in these books and at times vulnerable, he has enough of a dark side to make him realistic and interesting. And it is easy to understand what drives Luna; having a curse which means that anyone who comes close to you or, even worse, touches you gets hurt or killed would be enough to make anyone stand-offish and desperate.
As for the other characters, it is hardly ever certain who can be trusted; who is on the side of good and who is just pure evil, something which makes the story fascinating and a real page-turner.
I am having great fun with these books and can't wait for the third one to be published.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 May 2012
This is a very easy and enjoyable read - it zips past and keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next, throughout. The book is sold by a large quote on the front cover, from Jim Butcher and his The Dresden Files  are the most obvious influence.

However, what makes this book distinctive is its grounding in a very real London. Places like Camden Market and the British Museum, make the settings come to life and anybody who has lived or worked in London will recognise all the locations that are mentioned. Having been a frequent visitor to the British Museum, helps enormously in visualising the main action of this first book.

So whereas Harry Dresden is a typical American living in Chicago - Alex Verus, is a Londoner who runs a "magic" shop in Camden. Alex is not a typical "wizard" either and he can only see potential futures - which is of course very helpful, but he relies on others to protect him - like a friendly air elemental, who wants shiny stuff.

Anybody who likes "urban fantasy" will love this book, but I think that Benedict Jacka's writing takes this above the usual run of the mill. His humour, style of writing and attention to detail, combine to make this all much more interesting. I also liked the idea/concept of potential probabilities that runs throughout the book - that what is more important, isn't power as such, but knowing what the potential outcomes of actions/events might be.

I am looking forward to reading more and hope that future instalments will be as entertaining as this first book.
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on 5 March 2012
I bought this book on recommendation from a Jim Butcher interview. I was not disappointed, the story is good, the characters interesting and everything flows along really nicely. Those who know of Jim Butchers work will see some similarity with the early chapters of this book and the Dresden Files, there is even a rather nice reference to Harry, but things move away from these quite quickly. Those worried about a rehash should not be as I think while this is in the same vein of The Dresden Files, the story and its characters are distinct and well done.

I was a bit confused by the ending (I can't mention any more without giving away plot which I think would be a shame - though for a disclaimer it was more to do with the technical aspects of what the author defines as Magic within the book rather than any plot holes etc), but that was easily forgiven but the enjoyment of the book as a whole. I hope this author continues to improve upon this delightful series.

Highly Recommended.
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on 6 June 2012
This is the second in the series of a new lone ranger/magic user/trouble-shooting urban fantasy.
Action-packed from the start .Entertaining,fast-paced and enjoyable,following on from "Fated".

If you enjoy Jim Butcher,Darren Humphries,Kevin Hearne,Jon Rosenberg,Mark everett stone,charles stross,Ben Aaronovich, you'll probably like this too.
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Fated is the first in a series featuring modern day wizard, or 'diviner' as the book would have it, Alex Verus.

With so many urban fantasy series around these days a new entrant into the market needs to make a splash. It needs to grab readers and give them a compelling reason to commit to buying future books in the series, either via the quality of the writing, the originality of the concept, the charisma of the characters or the gripping nature of the story (or preferably via a combination of two of more of these).

Unfortunately for me 'Fated' had none of those things. The world Benedict Jacka has created feel reminiscent of any number of urban-fantasy series, with its talks of 'Dark Mages' and 'Councils'. There's nothing terribly original on offer here. The characters meanwhile, fail to leap off the page. As the whole book is written in the first person Alex Verus needs to be an entertaining narrator but isn't. The tone is flat and generates little sense of place or atmosphere (a real problem when you're dealing with the fantastical). At no point during the various chases or magical battles was I awed, scared or genuinely excited. Even the story failed to truly grip. I was curious to find out how Alex extricated himself from his predicament, but once I had there was little interest in knowing more about Alex or any of the other characters.

And that's the key problem with 'Fated'; it didn't leave me wanting more. Having finished it I don't find myself wanting to explore Alex Verus world further, or wanting to get to know the characters in more depth or uncover more about their back stories. Fated wasn't a terrible book; it passed the time and kept me reasonably interested. There just wasn't enough that was genuinely great about it to make me commit to yet another ongoing series of novels.
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on 30 July 2012
A good sequel. whist i have read reviews that state there is no real suspense and i would agree that the book does lack suspense it is more of a dogged detective story. The relationship between the charcters under strain, betrayal really does come to the fore in this novel
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 26 February 2015
This is the second in the series featuring Alex Verus - a magic user based in London who has the gift of being able to see all the pathways of the future. In style this book is very like "Rivers of London" by David Aaronovitch and Alex Verus bears more than a passing resemblance to Harry Dresden in the novels by Jim Butcher. If you like either of those excellent series then you will enjoy this one.

Alex is still living in London and running his shop of magical items. He has an apprentice, Luna, who is cursed so that no one can touch her. He has a series of eccentric and unusual friends from a large spider to a spirit of the air. Sadly, it also appears that he has an enemy that wants to kill him and his apprentice has been lured away by the love of a young wizard who shows remarkably poor judgement.

The magic in this book is unusual and well thought through. The author shows us how Alex's gift can be useful but also its limitations and, as usual, how people of evil intentions seek to use his gift for their own reward. The book is witty and amusing and Alex is an entertaining narrator who is wiser than he first appears. The author also examines the dark side of power and of magic and the whole monkey's paw/three wishes thing was very creepy and ended as you might have expected.

This isn't a very long book and it is very easy to read but nevertheless it has plenty to make you think together with a very engaging main character.
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I rather enjoyed this fantasy romp through the highways and byways of London. Having previously read and enjoyed Ben Aaranovitch's London based fantasy series I had hoped for more of the same kind of thing here, but it was different in a good way. There was less of the London history and more of the focus on how the magical world of the hero, Alex Verus, works. This is much more based in magical lore than the Aaranovitch's novels, and I like the magic world that the author creates for his hero. I am intrigued to read more, as although this book was quite pacy and full of action, you still get the sense that it is setting the scene for what is to come later in the series. My teenage daughter has read the three novels that come after this one and tells me that they get better. I look forward to seeing if what she says is true.
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on 22 November 2012
After reading all three of the Alex Verus series, I waiting in eager anticipation for the fourth one.

It's "urban fantasy" with magic of various "styles", so we see mages who specialise in areas like "Time", "Earth", "Mind", etc. The "good" mages aren't really that good, but the "dark" mages are mainly that bad! Being British and knowing a little of London, the travels of Alex around the big city and the surrounding countryside are quite evocative. The cast of characters is pretty varied, with plenty of notable "baddies".

There have been comments that Verus is another Harry Dresden ... well yes and no ... Dresden is, especially in the later stories, the classic zap mage, blasting away, blowing things and creatures up. Whereas Verus has very limited powers to influence "now" ... but he's "diviner" who can see the future, and that's got a different type of power!!

All in all, I'd well recommend this series to anyone
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