Book of the Year 2015 (see all)
I could not have been more excited when Veiled by Benedict Jacka arrived on my doorstep the other day, and le Tour de France be damned, two days later I can now report that it was just as good as the rest of the series, confirming Jacka’s status as one of my favourite authors currently writing.
Some readers may dislike Jacka’s style, and that’s just going to have to be OK with people. Jacka writes in one book what some authors may choose to write as one third of a larger book. If you want the compressed version of a London mage’s life as part of a larger, more complex story, in a longer tome of a book, Benedict Jacka is not for you. In 355 pages, Veiled tells a story that some authors might have compressed into a dozen or so chapters. Here, with Benedict Jacka writing, we get the opportunity to revel in the life, the thoughts, and the mishaps of London mage, diviner extraordinaire, Alex Verus.
Which is not to say there isn’t a much larger story going on – there is, and I’m desperate for more. I desperately want to see when Richard reappears, and I want to see the growth in Alex’s relationship with Luna, Vari, and most especially Anne. I want to see whether we are going to find ourselves with Alex unwittingly, unfortunately, or purposefully siding with a Dark Mage simply because the Light Mages are worse.
But with Veiled, all of that simply has to wait for this next piece of the puzzle to be played out. It’s a little bit political, a little bit dangerous, and a lot fun. Veiled takes Alex Verus into a much different place than he has been before, requiring extraordinary effort on his part to survive.
In other words, he’s forced to act as part of a team.
Verus is forced by circumstances to team up with the London mage Keepers, using his skills to keep people alive at the same time that he’s trying to keep himself alive and out of trouble. Finding himself once more amidst a much larger conflict than he ever imagined, Alex is forced to rely on his new teammates, taking him away from the comfort of his own team.
Luna, Vari, and Anne don’t disappear entirely from this book, but they are definitely relegated into the background as Alex ventures out into the world of being a Keeper – used for brainstorming sessions and backup. Arachne only make a small appearance, while only one of Alex’s regular enemies enters the scene, with the others ignored or, in the case of Richard, an ever-present fear that doesn’t materialise. Yet.
And though I didn’t get to see much time spent between Alex and Anne – my favourite character pairing in this series – I still loved this book. Even though Alex was taken away from those teammates who have become such integral parts of this book, and such wonderful characters to read about, I still loved this book. Getting to see Alex play at being part of a larger team, outwitted by opponents he doesn’t know exist, and then outwitting them himself, is exactly why I love reading Benedict Jacka.
Of course, there is also the fantastic time spent in and around London – the undisputed capital of brilliant urban fantasy. Jacka makes London as much a part of this novel as some of his living and breathing characters – though, Ben Aaronovitch and Kate Griffin still surpass him in this regard. But where London might not be the central character it is in Aaronovitch and Griffin’s urban fantasy novels, Jacka works to highlight the depth and intricacy of his magic system in ways that they do not, and it is a real highlight in Veiled to see just when Alex has to run, when he has to fight, and when he has to fight when he really should be running. The magical powers that inhabit Benedict Jacka’s London are thrilling, and perfectly balanced between exciting, intricate, dangerous, and valuable.
In the end, I ploughed through this book, oblivious to all external stimuli. There is nothing better in urban fantasy at the moment than Alex Verus, and no one better at writing it than Benedict Jacka.
Review by Joshua S Hill
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The [...]
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