Series: Alex Verus #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Orbit Books on 1 March 2012
Reading Challenges: 2013 In Uniform Challenge
I made a mistake. I read Jim Butcher’s Storm Front and then Fated. The similarities between the two are very easy to spot. While I can appreciate that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Alex Verus and his adventures should be able to stand alone and not as part of Butcher’s world. Or to put it more simply, if I wanted to read a Butcher book I would and I wouldn’t muck around with a pastiche. Despite this and some plot quibbles, I did enjoy Fated.
Alex is a diviner which means that he can see the future. He stands apart from the Light and Dark Mages because, like Harry Dresden, he had an unfortunate situation with his mentor. Both sides want him to find a magical object dating from the mage wars and they won’t take no for an answer. Alex can be a bit smug when he trots out his ‘I told you so’ or ‘I knew it would work out like that’ lines but I guess that’s to be expected when you predict almost anything (providing it follows the pathwalking rules). I found it difficult to connect with Alex perhaps due to the telling rather than showing – early on in his life he was tortured and treated like a slave but I couldn’t muster up more than a ‘jeez, that must have sucked’ because of the way it was presented (NB I’m usually very empathetic).
Alex’s treatment of Luna Mancuso fell clearly into the patronising category. Calling a woman ‘little girl’ is just not necessary and demanding she go into hiding for a few hours before parading her (in a nice dress) in front of the very people who want to attack her is just stupid. At least we weren’t treated to any commentaries on Luna’s feminine hands (which we would have if we were in Storm Front). I wanted to know more about Luna’s curse and how it ‘protected’ her by hurting those around her but Jacka put more effort into rounding out the men rather than the women.
Unfortunately a deux ex machina is introduced to get Alex out of almost every sticky situation. Bad guy chasing you? Call up your pet air elemental Starbreeze. Need to pass a message on? Dreamwalk. Need to get close to the cursed Luna? Bring out a magical ribbon. Want to get past the baddies? Pathwalk. None of these take a personal toll on Alex which seems unrealistic and I got a bit irritated with the frequency at which he whipped these bad boys out. The funny thing was that when he actually needed to work out who a traitor was and could have used his pathwalking abilities, it didn’t occur to him. Likewise he never went back to get more magical ribbon even though it would have saved him quite a lot of hassle. Making your protagonist a diviner and the way he operates believable is tricky and I don’t think Jacka has quite mastered it yet.
I did like the moral ambiguity of both the Light and the Dark and how Alex found himself acting as their pawn. Those who followed the Light were just as scheming and Machiavellian as those who followed the Dark. The world is quite dystopian in many ways as everyone is out for themselves. London has a rich and varied history full of greedy individuals that were happy to forsake everything for power. I think that if Jacka had exploited his location, he could have enhanced this aspect of the book rather than just referring to the mage war.
I’ve been a bit hard on this book mostly because it had so much potential. I did enjoy reading it but I wasn’t blind to the characterisation and plot problems along the way.