Burned by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus series: Book 7)

The arrival of a Benedict Jacka book on my doorstep is a “drop everything else” occasion. At just under 400 pages, these smaller-than-average books are some of the best urban fantasy that has been written. They aren’t a long read, and are generally over much quicker than I want. Each book is a self-contained story, and I am sure that a new reader could start anywhere in the series and not be too put-out. But the real story – or maybe I should say the larger story is being told over the entire series.

Burned is the seventh book in Benedict Jacka’s series, telling the story of British mage Alex Verus, a diviner with a seriously large plate-full of problems.

In Burned, Benedict Jacka wakes up on the literal first page to discover that one of the British High Council mage’s has put out a death sentence on him. The book concludes seven days later, and there’s very little stopping between the first and last page. I read the better part of four-fifths of this book in one sitting, glued to the pages.

On its own, Burned is a fast-paced combination of independent investigation, magic battles, political intrigue, heart-churning tension, and a dramatic conclusion.

As part of the larger story that Benedict Jacka is telling, this book is emotionally heart-breaking – and to a hopeless romantic like me, I am currently going through some serious withdrawals from two of my favourite characters ever written.

The book does a tremendous job of keeping character progression happening for all of the four main characters, and begins to solidify some of the ancillary characters that have been slowly circling around Alex and his littler cadre. Luna’s growth as a mage and as a woman continue, leaving you in no doubt as to her capabilities, and continuing to ingratiate her to the reader as one of the most enjoyable characters. Variam remains the least-developed character of the bunch, though that may have more to do with his inherent reserved nature.

Of course, as regular readers of Fantasy Book Review reviews will already know, I am a hopeless romantic, so it is unsurprising that the aforementioned “favourite characters ever written” are Alex and Anne. And while their lives are even more in peril and in the balance by the time this book concludes, their journey to that place is riveting, heart-wrenching, and action-packed. 

Individually, Anne receives less attention simply by virtue of not being the character the series revolves around. But with Bound coming out in April next year, I suspect Anne will work her way up to rival Alex for key-character status in this series. Together, they represent two of my favourite fictional characters from any genre, right up there with Tiffany Aching and Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett, and Whiskeyjack, Fiddler, and Quick Ben from Steven Erikson. The relationship between Alex and Anne is a fascinating thing to watch, as they journey through some level of attraction, while at the same time literally running for their lives.

Benedict Jacka books, no matter how far into the series we progress, remain must-reads for anyone reading this review. Benedict Jacka writes books that I can’t put down, turn aside, or sleep on. They must be read immediately, and I am left an emotional wreck once they finish, knowing that I have to wait months until I can return to the company of some of my favourite characters.

9/10 Benedict Jacka books remain must-reads

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