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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

Now that we’re close to the end, it finally feels like Alex Verus has found his sense of purpose; in this book his true self is revealed. And it is incredible.Alex has been faffing around for a while now. Before things started to come together in Book 10, it seemed like either Benedict Jacka or Verus, or both, didn’t really know where they were going. There were some great scenes but overall the stories were more filler than anything else. Placeholders till a decision was made. And let me tell you now, it has been. If Go Big or Go Home was a narrative style, then this boo [...]

9.5/10

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Chosen by Benedict Jacka

In reviewing the first three Alex Verus novels by author Benedict Jacka, I have focused primarily on their setting in London. This time around, however, it would simply be unfair to focus on such a secondary aspect of the book, and to ignore the powerful character-driven story that predominated.I have enjoyed immensely the introduction of new characters throughout this series. First was Luna, and her growth over the series as a character has been fascinating, thrilling, and above all, rewarding. She is more talented than she started out, but similarly we have been given a greater ins [...]

9.0/10

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Veiled by Benedict Jacka

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 [...]

9.0/10

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Burned by Benedict Jacka

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 Jack [...]

9.0/10

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Cursed by Benedict Jacka

There is not a lot that I can say ‘generally’ about Benedict Jacka’s series of Alex Verus novels, so I will copy and paste a section from my previous review for ‘Fated’, before moving to some specifics to do with ‘Cursed’ (if for no other reason than I really liked my review of Fated).It’s pretty clear, I’m a whore for well-written urban-fantasy, specifically if it’s set in London. I love it. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with a book to read about a fantastical version of a city I’ve never visited, bu [...]

7.8/10

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Taken by Benedict Jacka

A convenient twist of review-deliveries, recently finished books, and a desire to hold off finishing an advanced copy of a book I won’t name yet, left me picking up the recently arrived ‘Taken’ by Benedict Jacka, the third book in the author’s Alex Verus novels. The fourth comes out later this year, and I will soon have a review for that up as well, as I enjoy this little jaunt around an increasingly enjoyable urban fantasy London.Taken represents the next chapter not only in the life of Alex Verus but in the life of author Benedict Jacka as well, as they both [...]

7.8/10

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Fated by Benedict Jacka

Hidden in the lanes and byways of Camden London sits a shop, just a little shop, but if you know where to find it and have need of something a little magical, then the Arcana Emporium is the place for you. The owner already knows you are on the way; being able to see into the future helps with that.Alex Verus has hidden from the world for many years, but old wounds scar the longest and one-time friends and new enemies will come knocking.The forces of Dark and Light want Alex and his unique abilities and neither side is taking no as an answer.Alex will need quick wits, l [...]

7.5/10

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Hidden by Benedict Jacka

Released late 2014, it’s taken me a little bit longer than I would have liked to get to ‘Hidden’ by Benedict Jacka. But prowling around my library the other night, looking for something fun to read, I spied Hidden, living up to its name amidst a pile of ‘to-read’ books. I quickly sped through the last few chapters of its predecessor, ‘Chosen’ (which I loved) and jumped into Hidden.And could not for the life of me remember why I had waited so long.Hidden is the fifth book in the author’s ‘Alex Verus’ series of novels s [...]

7.5/10

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Marked by Benedict Jacka

At book 9 in the series, we’re all getting to know Alex Verus pretty well. As usual, he’s stuck right in the middle of all the drama, with any number of people out to kill him and he is having more than his fair share of bad days. While Morden’s cooling his heels in prison awaiting trial, Alex has taken over the Dark Mage seat on the Junior Council, giving him a chance at gaining influence right at the top of Mage society. It’s not that easy, of course, at least three of the seven Senior Councillors flat out want him dead and this makes discussions somewhat… u [...]

6.5/10

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Bound by Benedict Jacka

Urban fantasy is one of those fantasy subgenres which can be a little hit-and-miss for me – not every brand of urban fantasy is up my alley. If it is set in London then I’m pretty much in no matter, but otherwise it’s a bit up in the air whether or not I’ll love it or not. I know what I like and it’s hard to describe what I’m not a fan of.One of my favourite urban fantasy series is Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series of books. I’ve been a big proponent of them since I first encountered Fated, the first book in the series, and I& [...]

6.0/10

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Fallen by Benedict Jacka

I’ve made no secret of my love for Benedict Jacka, nor for urban fantasy set in London. It might be a very particular genre, maybe overly specific, but in my experience it is one of the most enjoyable genres to read. And yet, I missed the publication of Fallen, the tenth book in Jacka’s ‘Alex Verus’ urban fantasy series, and only when 2020’s Forged was published did I realise my mistake.Nevertheless, here I am, finally, and what a surprise awaited me as I read through one of the more interesting literary decisions I’ve encountered in a while. [...]

9.0/10

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