Saturday, 9 March 2013

Taken (Alex Verus #3) Review

Taken (Alex Verus #3)
Benedict Jacka

Publisher: Orbit

Welcome to Fountain Reach. Ancient seat of the Aubuchon dynasty. Majestic setting of the White Stone tournament. 
Alex Verus' (not necessarily reliable) reputation attracts all sorts. Most are plain bonkers. Yet there's one invitation he just can't refuse. At Fountain Reach, Alex is perfectly placed among the noted and notorious to figure out why apprentices have been vanishing. But the tournament is a minefield of ancient grudges and new threats and Alex can't afford to miss a trick as his elusive adversary stays one step ahead in this most dangerous of games...

This series is starting to growing on me. I have got my head around Alex Verus gift – as a diviner he can see the future – but only in the short term if a decision is made and only if he is focusing on it. Otherwise he can be surprised as much as anyone else. With Luna now officially his apprentice and the change this has brought to their relationship, Alex is much more involved in the world of wizards and the Light Council affairs. So when apprentices start to go missing, Alex is asked to investigate.

Alex has been slowly gathering his own ‘scooby’ gang of friends and acquaintances who also become involved in his adventures and these characters are fascinating; Luna with her unique curse, Sonder and his book-learning, Arachne and her tailor skills. This time round we are introduced to two other apprentices – Anne and Viriam who are just as appealing and different. I love the different relationships Alex has with each of them and they have with each other. It really fleshes out the world and anchors Alex. Alex himself is still a bit of a mystery. He had a tough upbringing and doesn’t trust easily. He protects his own fiercely – whether that’s his life or his friends and doesn’t hide from conflict – but prefers to be sneaky as it gives him an edge. I think that element alone makes him fairly unique in protagonists. He has no ‘honour’ as such. That doesn’t mean that him won’t stand up for himself, but he will try to do everything to give himself the advantage.

The investigation and action are neatly intertwined and the plot pacey. The pages were easily swallowed up as I became engrossed in the story. The writing has become smoother and the plotting more natural as the series as progressed (It wasn’t bad before but you can tell this is an author relaxing into his craft and evolving). The magic system is one I like especially the changes in how Luna can control and manipulate her curse now.

There is one thing that bugs me slightly – some of the bad guys always manage to escape at the end which makes it feel like there are a lot of loose endings. I can understand the reluctance to kill of an intrigue foe but after three books in the series, it seems a little repetitive – like always playing the same attack in a game of chess. However, overall this is series is evolving and I look forward to the next instalment – I’ve even pre-ordered it from Amazon already!

Recommended for fans of Suzanne Johnson and Ben Aaronovitch. 7.75 out of 10

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