June 15, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Lit Review: Burned (Alex Verus Book 7)

Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus, a mage who can see probable futures, has a new adventure that radically alters the status quo for the character going forward.

Author Benedict Jacka has a nuce urban fantasy series featuring Alex Verus.  He’s an independent mage in a world of Light and Dark mages who he’d rather not deal with, but because his magic specialty is divination, he’s frequently pulled into plots and schemes that could get him killed.

The seventh book in the series, Burned, is a real game-changer for the ongoing plot.

Alex Verus can see the future.  That’s his magical gift.  It’s more of seeing probable futures since going too far into the future just leads to less likely outcomes, but it does make him hard to kill and exceptionally good at finding things out.  He’s got a shop of magical items that he runs on the side, various younger friends and allies including an apprentice, and some friends on the Light’s police force, the Keepers.

Then, almost as soon as the book starts, Alex gets a call from a longtime friend warning him that the Light’s Inner Council just voted to execute him and his magical dependents in a week.  Jacka doesn’t waste time.

As such, Alex scrambles not so much to save his own life (though he does work to ensure that as well), but to save the lives of Anne (a life mage), Varium (a fire mage), and Luna (his apprentice, cursed more than magical).  He has some alliances and friendships he can call upon, even making up somewhat with his estranged younger colleague Sonder (a time mage).  Alex never fully joined the Light side because despite the name they aren’t necessarily good.  He likes his independent status that allows him to help people in his own way, and the only real difference between the Light and the Dark is a matter of the Light will kill you more formally or politely and the Dark are just a lot more ruthless.  But the title here is Burned and that means not only are there fire mages causing problems, but Alex will be seeing various bridges burned, and not always due to his own actions.  This book ends with Alex having a very different status quo than he did at the beginning.

The only real problem I had is with how the change happens.  80% or so of the book is a very standard Alex Verus adventure, and then in the last fifty pages or so, there’s a major event that forces Alex to make major changes.  The change in tone does somewhat work, but it could have been done much better.  Had Jacka not pulled the change in the last three chapters or so and worked out the events that happened over a longer section, I might have liked it more.  It’s by no means a bad book.  I enjoyed it very much and look forward to getting to the next one at some point, but the change didn’t have enough time to work itself out.  Eight and a half out of ten cursed swords.