Chosen by Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus, #4
Before I say anything about this really good book, let me point you to The Big Idea that Jacka wrote about it over on John Scalzi’s blog, if that doesn’t convince you to try this, nothing I say will. If you read this and are intrigued, go grab the first three books before you read this one. They’re more than worth it.
First off, I want to talk about the non-plot related stuff in the first chapter, but it’s better if you read it yourself — it warmed the geeky cockles of my heart in a way few other books have this year.
The fun is short-lived, of course. Verus is still training Luna, trying to find a place for the former Dark Apprentices, Anne and Variam, that he took in following the events of Taken. While he’s busy, he’s realizing that for the first time in long time, he isn’t alone, he has friends, companions — there’s the three just mentioned, plus the mage Sonder and, of course, Arachne. You start to get the idea that Verus is on the verge on contentment, starting to think about a future in this community he’s building (and not the way he’s known for).
Which is a tried and true signal that things are about to go pear shaped. Which it does, pretty decisively. It’s been clear from the start that Verus’ past is dark, but we’ve never been given many details. Well, that’s over — we get a real clear look at what life was like for Verus while he was apprenticed to Richard Drakh, and what it was like for him as he started to break away. While we’re learning this, Verus himself gets a much clearer view of what was going on back then.
What sets this off is the relative of someone that Verus and his fellow apprentices had wronged (details avoided), years ago has come to town. He’s an untrained adept, and so are his friends — they start off as a vigilante gang attacking Dark Mages. It doesn’t take long before they find their way to their target, Alex Verus.
It takes all Verus’ cunning, guts, and determination to survive this. Everything’s on the line here — his friends learn almost as much as the reader does about his past (and their reactions are complex and ring true emotionally), he barely escapes his first encounter with the gang with his life, and he has to open himself to part of his life he’d rather be done with. And the tactics he has to employ to save his life — and others’ — are morally murky at best.
There was really nothing about this book I didn’t like — Jacka keeps getting better and better (and he started very strong). To say that I’m eager for book #5 is an understatement, it’s going to be great.