Alex Varus 1
Camden, North London. A tangled, mangled junction of train lines, roads and the canal. Where minor celebrities hang out with minor criminals, where tourists and moody teenagers mingle and where you can get your ears pierced and your shoulder tattooed while eating sushi washed down with a can of super strength beer.
In the heart of Camden, where rail meets road meets leyline, you might find the Arcana Emporium, run by one Alex Verus. He won’t sell you a wand or mix you a potion, but if you know what you’re looking for, he might just be able to help. That’s if he’s not too busy avoiding his apprentice, foiling the Dark, outwitting the Light and investigating a highly toxic Relic that has just turned up at the British Museum.
As I was doing an end-of-year clear up, boxing up the accumulated piles of books to get ready for offloading to a charity, I realised I had a copy of Fated by Benedict Jacka that I had no immediate recollection of reading. Worse still, it was an advance proof copy and I make a point of trying to read those. So I promptly read it. Once I had started reading, I realised that yes, I had previously read it but for some reason there is no review from me anywhere. So it is time to belatedly remedy that.
This is urban fantasy. What I look for in urban fantasy is how readily my sense of disbelief can be suspended with fantastical elements in an urban setting. If the translation jars then it generally is not going to work for me. I did not have any such problems here.
There were some nice touches in this story. For example with things like ageless elemental spirits, we are more accustomed to them either being evil incarnate or a greater, wiser power. To have the elemental air spirit, Starbreeze, thicker than two bricks with a helluva load of cement in-between was once such nice touch. It also added an element of risk such as Alex recalling the time Starbreeze was carrying him somewhere, became distracted and they ended up somewhere like Rio de Janeiro (or similar) by mistake.
I also liked Benedict’s explanation of Dark versus Light, with the Dark not being so much evil as such but as a particular mindset or attitude which resulted in the Dark approach to matters.
This book was an example of the published blurb not really reflecting the actual story. From that I was expecting something with a greater focus on the activities of the Arcana Emporium but that barely touches the story at all. I felt the story could have been somewhat deeper by coming more from the angle of Alex Varus, renegade seer, making his way by dealing in the magical, rather than quite early in proceedings having him shut up shop to go and meet someone and the Emporium ceasing to have any actual role.
I shan’t lie and say it was the greatest urban fantasy I have read but I still found it catchy and interesting enough to pass my most crucial test – do I want to read more? Yes I do.