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Urban Fantasy with just enough of a twist,
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This review is from: Fated (Kindle Edition)Let's check to see if Benedict Jacka's Fated has all the cliche elements of the "Contemporary Urban Fantasy" genre, "Rogue Wizard" subgenre:
Snarky, down on his luck, outcast, put upon wizard...check.
Elitist wizard counsel filled with pompous, self-dealing buffoons...check.
Damsel in distress....check.
Powerful friends who are always there to help out our hero...check.
Mysterious things afoot that can only be put right by an outsider...check.
Yup, they are all there.
That's not to say that this book should be avoided. Cliches define a genre. A Western wouldn't be much of a Western without horses and gun fights. A mysery pretty much demands a detective, a puzzle and a villain. The question is what does the author do with the elements of the genre? Jacka does an engaging job of putting together the elements that we've seen in Jim Butcher's Dresden series or Glen Cook's Garrett stories and then providing a twist so that the elements are there but the story is fresh and engaging.
The twist in Fated is that Alex Verus is a diviner. in Jacka's world, wizards are divided into two broad categories - Light and Dark - depending on their ethical attitudes toward the "will to power," apparently - and further divided by what kind of magic they wield. Verus doesn't have death magic or fire magic or eath magic; he has the ability to see the future, which seems to be a pretty puny ability in a society where other wizards can fry you if they take a mind to do so.
But here is where Jacka shines by putting Alex into situations where his divination is powerful indeed. For example, since Alex can see what would have happened if he chose to do a certain thing or travel along a certain path, he can search a house in no time flat and avoid traps that his fellow wizards with their flashier powers can't and won't. This aspect of the book reminded me of nothing so much as Nicholas Cage's character in Next.
I found Alex to mercifully less snarky and less of an obvious wanna-be "bad ass" than a lot of characters in this genre. I find that cliche gets tiring. Rather, Alex has rejected the glamours of the Dark mage lifestyle, although he hasn't thrown his lot in with the Light mages, because he recognizes that the cruelty and oppression of the Dark mages is wrong. Or perhaps the better way to put it is that he sees that other people are something better than tools to be used by the powerful. We'll see if this ethical direction continues in later books.
The problem that confronts Alex is the discovery of a "precursor" object that is said to contain a powerful magical device. Everyone is making a grab for it, and quite by chance, the key to the problem falls into Alex's lap. Alex is put into a situation where he can prevail only by virtue of his gift and his friends.
Oh, and there is a nice twist at the end, which took the story in a direction that I hadn't anticipated.
Since this is the beginning of a series, we are introduced to the ensemble of allies that will - presumably - follow Alex into succeeding stories. There is Luna, the girl who is cursed and can't be touched and might be Alex's love interest, and Arachne, the giant spider-being who makes Alex's clothes, and Starbreeze, the air elemental who acts as his taxi service.
I found the book and the character engaging. I'm going to read future instalments. Since that is the standard by which I measure the quality of this kind of genre book, I give it five stars and the recommendation that if you are looking for an engaging urban fantasy, whether you are a long time fan of contemporary urban fantasy or someone looking to cut his teeth on the genre, check this one out.