If you have never been acquainted with Jacka’s protagonist Alex Verus you are certainly missing a hidden gem amongst the shelves in the fantasy isle. It maybe on it’s 7th book, but they are a great in between book like Discworld or Peter Grant. I highly recommend the audiobooks which me and partner listened too, great narrator – unsure why he says plarstic rather than plastic.
“I don’t sell spells, and I don’t sell tricks. I don’t carry illusions or marked cards or weighted coins. I cannot sell you an endless purse or help you win the lottery. I can’t make that girl you’ve got your eye on fall in love with you, and I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I don’t have a psychic hotline to your dead relatives, I don’t know if you’re going to be successful in your career, and I don’t know when you’re going to get married. I can’t get you into Hogwarts or any other kind of magic school, and if you even mention those stupid sparkly vampires I will do something unpleasant to you.”
— Benedict Jacka (Cursed (Alex Verus, #2))
Alex Verus is a mage who runs a shop in London selling non-magical ‘magical’ items to the general public and real magical items to witches and wizards, however these are hidden out of sight. Mages have different abilities falling into three families;
Elemental – Earth, Air, Fire, Water (sounds the like the theme tune to Captain Planet) Ice etc, the most common type of magic.
Living – Affecting others thoughts, emotions and the ability to shape shift.
Universal – The rarest and coolest, Divination, Chance, Time and Space.
The magic system is very simple and does not have any negative impact on Jacka’s writing which is flowing, laid back and generally lots of fun with moments of intensity and madness.
Alex Verus has the power of divination, the way Jacka combines the divination alongside the narrative is very clever, in a very short space of time Verus often needs to use his mage sight to check out all the alternatives for his next action to find the result that will end up with him ultimately not being killed. Ideally Alex just wants to have a relaxed life in his shop but the reality is so many people want him dead both dark mages (the baddies) and the light mages (the supposed goodies, think our government) So why is Verus such a target?
To become a mage Alex had to be trained by a master, in his case a dark mage (Richard Drakh the Voldemort of dark mages.) which involved Alex’s mage sight being used in exchange for his own life as part of some very unpleasant jobs against other mages. Alex eventually escaped the bonds of his master and made every effort to turn good and be recognised this way by the light council, however there is a snobbery amongst the light mages which there seems to be no return from being tainted by the dark leading to Alex being stitched up, framed or assassinated, furthermore without the protection of his dark master he is an open target for all the dark mages he p*ssed off whilst in service to Richard Drakh.
“As I walked, I started making a list of everyone in the mage world whom I’d opposed, fought with, or otherwise irritated. After I ran out of fingers to count on I decided to limit the number to people I’d pissed off relatively recently.”
— Benedict Jacka (Cursed (Alex Verus, #2))
Verus is an outcast, with his best form of defence is to rebel and outwit the hierarchy, which he does brilliantly, even if occasionally with the attitude of a 16 year old teenager. However when he becomes a master himself and has his own apprentice, he is determined to erase all memories of his own training by supporting her the best way he can, this leads to him making some good friends but at a cost making the target on his back a whole lot bigger and himself a lot more vulnerable.
I have made sure I have not added spoilers but I must say the end of Burned will leave you screaming out for book number 8, excellent series.
About the author: Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he’s studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.