The Blurb On The Back:
Alex Verus faces his dark side …
To protect his friends, the probability mage Alex Verus has had to change – and embrace his dark side. But the life mage Anne has changed too, and made a bond with a dangerous power. She’s going after everyone she’s got a grudge against – and it’s a long list.
The Council’s death squads are hunting Alex as well as Anne, and the only way for Alex to stop them is to end his long war with the Council by whatever means necessary. It will take everything Alex has to stay ahead and stop Anne from letting the world burn.
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The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
It’s just over 3 weeks since FALLEN.
Having been tricked into releasing the jinn inside her, the Anne who Alex loves has been locked away by Dark Anne who is currently working her way through a long list of people who have wronged her. Having merged with the Fateweaver to level up his divination magic, Alex is hot on her trail but the pair of them are number 1 on the Light Council’s arrest list thanks to the revelation of the pair’s role in Morden’s break-out from San Sittore and the Keepers are perfectly happy to kill them rather than arresting them.
Thankfully, the Council’s resources are divided as they also engage in their war against Richard Drakh, which gives Alex some respite, but with the Keepers hassling Vari and Luna (forcing them to keep their distance) and Arachne having disappeared with a dragon, he’s very low on allies. Added to that, Deleo/Rachel blames him for Richard casting her out and is determined to kill him once and for all while Alex’s refusal of Richard’s offer means that it won’t be long before Alex has to deal with him too.
Alex knows that he can’t do anything about his other problems until he gets the Council off his back and that means dealing with Levistus. Fortunately, he has a plan but, as ever, it’s dangerous and now that Alex has very little to use, he’s happy to embrace all of his darkest, most ruthless instincts in order to pull it off …
The 11th and penultimate book in Benedict Jacka’s ALEX VERUS SERIES is an adrenalin-fuelled action-fest that concludes a few of the series’ plot strands (some in a very surprising manner) while setting up what promises to be a gripping conclusion. Particularly good is the way Alex embraces his Dark Mage origins here – it’s chilling, logical and really makes you wonder how this will end and I am on tenterhooks for the last book so I can find out.
The book gets off to an explosive start with Alex tracking Dark Anne and her death list of vengeance, starting with Jagadev. If I am being picky, then I would have liked a short resume of what happened in FALLEN (only because it had been so long since I had read the last book) but that’s about the only criticism I could level at the book because what follows is a really well executed, action-driven plot as Alex works out who his enemies are and what he needs to do in order to knock them out.
What I really liked is how what we see here is Alex thinking like a Dark Mage – he is utterly ruthless and even though all of his calculations are there in order to keep himself and his friends safe and you can sympathise with his decisions – he is still prepared to do whatever he needs to in order to put an end to it and that is very different from the Alex we first met back in FATED. It gives a particular poignancy to a conversation he has with Dark Anne at the end of the book where he talks about how the jinn will end up taking her over because there’s such a parallel with how Richard’s taking has finally started to grip him.
That ruthlessness comes out in his plans for Levistus (which provides an interesting explanation for Levistus’s influence over the Council and also calls back to plot lines in the earlier books) but particularly in the way Jacka resolves the Rachel/Deleo storyline. I honestly was not expecting the way Jacka took that, especially given the role of Shireen, and while it worked really well and made complete sense for all of the characters involve, it does make me wonder what else he has in store for the other plot lines. The run up to the conclusion also gives Cinder a bit more of a role and while the resolution does suggest we will not see him again in the last book, I hope he still gets some kind of look in.
Having been critical of the developments with Caldera in previous books, I was much more satisfied with the explanation we get for her attitude towards Alex, which made a lot of sense and rang true for her. I also enjoyed the appearance we get from Sonder (whose development over the series has very much worked for me) and Landis, who shows Alex the kind of ‘tough love’ he really needs but it was Morden’s scenes that really delighted me given the understanding that develops between him and Alex and also the uncomfortable parallels between them.
Jacka also expands on the plans that Anne’s jinn has, which promises a cracking finale albeit one I have a horrible feeling will cause a lot of tears, especially given the description we have of what the Fateweaver is doing to Alex’s body and the potentially fatal effects this could have. Having been critical in previous books of the Alex/Anne relationship I was pleased that this book does not see Alex planning to in some way redeem or rescue her and the dynamic between him and Dark Anne worked well, especially given the increasing influence of the jinn.
As I said above, there’s a lot of action in this book and Jacka is one of the very best writers for fight scenes – they’re all really well choreographed, genuinely exciting and the use of Alex’s divination lends a really novel edge. There’s less overt politics than in the previous books but Jacka pursues the themes set out in earlier novels in the series and the very thin line that separates Light and Dark Mages.
All in all I thought this was a highly entertaining, gripping page-turner and I am very much looking forward to reading the finale – even though I will be sad to see the end to such an enjoyable, clever and entertaining urban fantasy series.