01/06/2012. Contributed by Vinca Russell
pub: Orbit. 322 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50024-9.
check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.benedictjacka.co.uk
'Fated' by Benedict Jacka is the first outing for his new lead character, Alex Verus, who runs a magic shop in London. However, it's not exactly the kind of place you'd visit to pick up your standard card tricks. Verus is a probability mage, a diviner who can see the most probable course the future will take after a range of actions. For instance, he knows that he'll be getting a visit from the Mages Council soon and that probably won't lead to anything good. Then again, he doesn't need to be a mage to see that outcome. An ancient magical artefact has turned up in the British Museum and everyone wants a diviner to help them gain access to its contents without waking the aggressive guardian elemental protecting it. All the other diviners seem to have disappeared, so it's up to Alex to figure out a way to help the good guys, thwart the bad guys, save his friend and try not to get killed in the process.
I don't usually like to compare books as I think that each deserves to stand on its own merit, but it's very hard to read this without making comparisons to 'The Dresden Files' series of books by Jim Butcher. 'Fated' is an urban fantasy set in London, with a slightly grumpy and anti-social mage as the central character, who has fallen out with the Mages Council because of bad dealings with dark wizards in his past. Sound familiar? It even gives a nod to Harry Dresden in the first few pages, talking about a wizard in Chicago who advertises in the phone book. If you've read any of 'The Dresden Files', this book probably isn't going to bring you any new surprises, but is it worth reading anyway?
The answer is an only slightly tentative yes. I enjoyed this one, once I'd got past the first few chapters it did develop a style of its own and, as a UK-based reader, I appreciated the British setting. I think the characters could do with a bit more development. I didn't form strong attachments to any of them over the course of the story but as the first book in a series and Jacka's first book for adults, I can forgive that. There's time for them to grow through the next books. As a bit of a science geek, I find the idea of a probability mage appealing, maths magic sounds great and I'd like to see more magic described in terms of scientific ideas. The relationship between Alex and his friend/would-be apprentice Luna is nicely developed and I thought the descriptions of the visualisation of her luck curse were some of the best passages in the book. I also chuckled over the giant spider who works as a dressmaker and tailor to the high class mages and think she would be a great character to learn more about.
The book also includes an interview with the author which is a nice little extra to have after finishing the story.
'Fated' is a light, unchallenging read but is an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours in the company of mages in the British Museum. Not exceptional, but has potential to develop into a good series.
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