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An interview with Benedict Jacka

“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 Lord of the Rings

The quote from The Lord of the Rings resonated for me the uncertainty I felt when writing the article How Stories Connect Us. I truly did not know how it would all turn out in the end, or in the manner of Bilbo, I did not know where the road would sweep my feet once I went out that door.

When the first author Chris F. Holm replied to my interview request I thought the series would finish as a single piece, lightning never strikes twice as they say. In my own mind I felt I had achieved a measure of success, providing a little deeper insight into one authors perspective and literary back-story, and I was content with this.

Much to my surprise and delight (including a little jig – I am Irish) Benedict Jacka, author of the Alex Verus and Ninja series, was gracious enough to reply to my questions, which meant another chance to delve around into the words and stories that shaped Benedict’s writings.

A great thanks to Benedict for taking time out of his schedule, I know he must be very busy with promotional responsibilities for his latest Alex Verus novel, ‘Hidden’ which comes out 2nd September 2014. I am really looking forward to reading and reviewing it for the site. If you wish to know more about Benedict you can read his biography here.

Down to business then, it’s not like you’re here for my prattling.

Which book do you own that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy just by holding it in your hand?

Watership Down.  I first had it read to me when I was VERY young and I went on to read it over my childhood more times than I can count.  I always loved the story.

Which book or series do you read which makes you feel nostalgic, remembering the period in your life you first read it?

Difficult one… a lot of books in different ways.  I’ll pick an author more or less at random and say Gerald Durrell, especially his book My Family and Other Animals.  I went through a phase while I was young when I kept reading his books over and over again obsessively, often in the middle of the night.

Which book or series do you read that makes your blood pump and your palms sweaty?

Brandon Sanderson’s new series, Stormlight Archive, is pretty good.

Which book or series is your guilty pleasure? The one you read when no one else is watching? Maybe it’s the Twilight Saga (not that there is anything wrong with the Twilight books) with the dust jacket of War and Peace?

Heh.  I actually don’t have any books that I feel guilty about reading, not really – the way I see it, if they’re interesting enough to get all the way through, they were obviously doing something right!  I think it’s because my original genre was children’s fantasy – the same kind of books that (unsurprisingly enough) get called childish.  So I’ll read everything from Harry Potter to Hunger Games to Twilight quite happily.

Which book or series do you think you could implant one of your own characters into e.g. Peter? Would you want them to thrive and integrate or want them to burn it all down?

Well, sticking Alex into the Dresden Files setting would be fun, if for no other reason than I’d have an answer to all those readers who keep asking when Alex and Harry are going to meet up. 

Fingers crossed there is more to come.

Article and interview by Fergus McCartan.

Our Benedict Jacka reviews

Forged by Benedict Jacka

When you finish a book and wonder how the hell the next one will top it, then you know it’s a phenomenal read. That what follows is the finale in this 12 book series only makes the stakes even higher. But after this, I know that whatever Benedict Jacka does for the finale, it’ll be better than I could have imagined. And I cannot wait.

Read our review

Chosen by Benedict Jacka

In writing this fourth book in his Alex Verus series, Benedict Jacka has written the most powerful and emotionally gripping entry into the series as well. Jacka has visibly grown as an author over this series, and I am thrumming with anticipation for what comes next.

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Veiled by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus is a mage who can see the future, but even he didn't see this day coming. He's agreed to join the Keepers, the magical police force, to protect his friends from his old master, the Dark Mage Richard Drakh. Going legit was always going to be difficult for an outcast like Alex, and there are some Keepers who aren't keen to see an ex-Dark mage succeed. Especially when Dark mages are making a play for a seat on the council, for the first time in history. Alex finally has the law on his side - but trapped between Light and Dark politics, investigating a seedy underworld with ties to the highest of powers, will a badge be enough to save him?

"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."

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Burned by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus has a magic shop in Camden, London, and an uncanny ability to see the future. But suddenly everyone can see Alex's future. Because the Mage's Council of Great Britain just named him a traitor and ordered his death in seven days' time, and there's no way anyone can get out of that. Alex's friends - Luna and the other apprentices he's taken in - are tainted by association. They'll be marked for death too when the ruling comes into play, and Alex becomes locked in a race against time to save them. But with only seven days to work with, will he have time left over save his own skin?

"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."

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Cursed by Benedict Jacka

In 'Cursed' we are starting to build into the back story and get some legs behind the world of Alex Verus, it’s still verging on a Dresden story but we are staring to see some breakout individuality. The more I read, the more I enjoy and the more I want to read.

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Taken by Benedict Jacka

I good little weekend read that is starting to gather some steam. Fast paced suspenseful fantasy thriller. Recommended.

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Fated by Benedict Jacka

Comparisons to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files are inevitable, and though Fated is very clearly in the same vein, it’s a book with some great ideas of its own that deserves to be read as such. An exciting, involving and enjoyable read, Fated presents a great new voice in fantasy fiction.

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Hidden by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures - a talent that's gotten him and his friends out of many a tough scrape. But what happens when someone doesn't want Alex's help? Alex's friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she's in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne's problem is really with him - or if there's a secret she's trying to hide. On top of that, rumours are swirling around London that Alex's former master may be back in town. Alex has no idea what his agenda may be, or who it involves...

"More than simply recommending Hidden, by Benedict Jacka, to you, I want to use Hidden as a reason that you should be reading the entire Alex Verus series! Beautifully written, with characters wrought wholly in three dimensions that tug at your heartstrings and make you angry, this series is the current high point for urban fantasy – no questions asked."

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Marked by Benedict Jacka

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Bound by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus can see the future. But he never thought he'd see this day. Manoeuvred by forces beyond his control, the probability mage has made a terrible choice: he's agreed to work for his old master once more. Richard Drakh, the sadistic dark mage Alex escaped as an apprentice, has him in his clutches again. And this time, he won't let go so easily.

"In the end I wouldn’t recommend a newcomer start with this book – though, given that it’s book eight, that is unsurprising; to recommend an eighth book in a series to a newcomer, the book would have to be mind-blowing. For those already invested in the series, you’re obviously going to want to read this book, but I’m warning you that it might not be the best in the series."

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Fallen by Benedict Jacka

Fallen is a high-water mark for Benedict Jacka’s ‘Alex Verus’ series and a challenging benchmark for other urban fantasy writers. Compelling, un-put-down-able, emotional, and with gripping prose that at times takes you right into the bloody room, Fallen serves as a significant signpost towards this series’ end game. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, then I wouldn’t necessarily suggest you jump into book ten (of what is expected to be a twelve-book series), but by gosh it’s been a fun ride to get here, and it only keeps getting better.

Read our review