Risen by Benedict Jacka

The Blurb On The Back:

The probability mage Alex Verus has gone from a Camden shopkeeper to one of the most powerful magic users in Britain.  Now his last and most dangerous battle lies before him.

Alex’s girlfriend, the life mage Anne, has fallen fully under the control of the deadly djinn she made a bargain with, and it is preparing to create an army of mages subject to its every whim.  Can Alex figure out a way to free her from possession and stop her before time runs out for the people he loves?

You can order Risen by Benedict Jacka from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s two days after FORGED.

Increasingly under the control of the djinn she made a deal with, Dark Anne continues to seek revenge on those who wronged her, taking the most powerful magic users so that other djinn can possess them.  Alex Verus is certain that Variam (who was captured by Dark Anne at the end of FORGED) has been similarly possessed, but despite following Anne to Sagash’s castle he can’t find where she’s keeping him.

Meanwhile the Council has finally woken up to the threat that the djinn pose and are even prepared to team up with Richard Drake to defeat them (not that they have much choice given that Richard has something that they need if they’re to beat her).  The Council is prepared to include Alex in their plans and cut him and Anne (if Alex can rescue her) a permanent amnesty provided he deals with Richard for them.  Alex knows that they will turn on him the second they don’t need him but he’s also long over due for his own reckoning with Drakh and with the fateweaver’s affect on his body accelerating each time he draws on its powers and getting every closer to his heart, his time is running short. 

Somehow Alex has to find a way to stop the djinn, rescue Anne, rescue Vari and defeat Richard once and for all.  No pressure then.

The 12th and final book in the ALEX VERUS SERIES packs in a lot of action, ties up loose ends, and sees some long-standing characters die (sob) and while I had some nitpicks about the closure re Richard and Anne and Alex’s relationship never convinced me, the book finishes on a bittersweet note that’s a fitting end to one of my favourite fantasy series and leaves open the possibility for Jacka to revisit this world should he want.

The book plays out over a tight timeframe of only a few days, which plays to Jacka’s great strength as a writer given his ability to tie in a lot of action while also juggling various plot lines and exposition. Although there are hints and suggestions as to the direction events will go, this is not a predictable book and Jacka throws in a couple of twists that I certainly didn’t see coming.  That said, while there are some deaths here of characters who were established in the series (some of which were predictable, others more of a surprise), they are not major characters, which did feel a bit too safe.  

Equally, while I enjoyed a revelation about the djinn possessing Vari and the resolution to that storyline, again there wasn’t enough doubt over the outcome for me to totally be hooked by it.  Also the confrontation between Richard and Alex needed a bit of zing to it and I think part of the reason it seemed a bit rote was that Richard has always been a bit of a distant, mysterious character throughout the series and although some discoveries about him were really interesting he never has much of a personality and while that is undoubtedly the point – he is just another a-hole dark mage bent on power – it felt like there should have been something there to give it some oomph.

The other main issue for me is that I just don’t feel the relationship between Anne and Alex and as such I was less invested in the ending of that plot line and the resolution itself was just a bit flat for me.  To be fair, it’s been a problem for me with the series in general just because I don’t think it was developed enough on the page for me to find it believable and also because Dark Anne is just more vividly drawn and more interesting than ‘normal’ Anne and I did miss her when she wasn’t on the page.  However, I do know that I’m in a minority on this and it’s more of a personal thing than a deal breaker.

If this sounds like I’m down on the book then I’m not.  Jacka keeps the plot coming at a cracking pace and the scenes where Alex uses his diving magic are great, especially given it’s been souped up through his merger with the fate weaver.  The way the fate weaver is slowly transforming his body also gives events an added sense of urgency and I liked the way it gave his character a more reflective quality.  In fact there are a number of conversations between Alex and Luna that I thought worked particularly well in terms of showing how much Alex has changed as a character and how that’s affected his own view of himself.  One of my favourite scenes in the book combines Alex’s new ruthlessness with his souped up divinity magic as he deals with a problem in a way that definitely does not meet with the approval of his friends, even though it’s to their benefit.  

I enjoyed the nods to loved and missed characters like Arachne and I really enjoyed the increased presence of Landis in this book (I would happily read a spin off about Landis should Jacka ever feel an urge to write one).  Also interesting is new character Ji-yeong, former apprentice to Sagash and a life mage – I liked her dry asides and wished she’d been introduced a book or so earlier given the rapport she has with both Alex and Luna.

The book ends on a fitting bittersweet note but if you’re willing to turn the pages, there’s a good epilogue that provides all the closure you’d need.  All in all I thought it was a fitting end to the series that gives the reader closure but leaves open the possibility of Jacka returning to this world if he wants to explore other aspects at a later date although the author’s note at the end says he’s working on something new which is totally cool and I will definitely check it out.

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