Fated by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fated is a fantastic debut novel. This is what urban fantasy can accomplish, taking fantasy concepts and giving them a new spin in a modern setting. Jacka uses the concept of an age-old war between Dark and Light Mages and sets it in contemporary London. While many will think of Dresden and recommend this to fans of that great series, I don't even think it's fair to compare them outside of the fact that they are both male POV urban fantasy novels with magical protagonists. Jacka writes his own book here, and I loved him for it. Yes, it does have the somewhat smart-alecky, down on his luck magical protagonist, but actually Alex Verus and Harry Dresden couldn't be more different.
While I am not a big fan of witchcraft themes in urban fantasy, I love the idea of modern-day mages and magic-users. This book is for those who like to see the magical battles without all the spellwork and spellcasting along with it. And the one thing that felt so refreshing and delightfully distinct was the fact that Alex is a Diviner. His main ability is to see the future and shift through possible outcomes and choose the best one for his situation. This makes Alex more of a thinking man hero as opposed to a reactive/shoot first and ask questions last hero. His strength is his ability to assess the situation and choose wisely. He will be the first to admit that he's often out-numbered and our-powered by his adversaries, but that just makes me more loyal and root for him all the more. Because of the fact that he has been the punching bag, Alex has a lot of humility and grace for those who aren't strong. I respected his sense of right and wrong, even if he's not exactly what you'd call a Boy Scout.
Luna is an interesting secondary character. I felt for her situation, and I have a feeling that her relationship with Alex will continue to be pivotal in this series. In some ways, they aren't that different. Both isolated and ostracized for being different. They have a strong connection, even just on that level.
I found the storyline very interesting. Alex having to navigate through shark-infested waters of political and physically violent power struggles between Dark and Light Mages. Jacka endows his world with a lot of weight and texture. He takes the urban fantasy genre is a much needed different direction. Instead of treading on the overtrodden territory of vampires, werewolves and even faerie, he focuses on magic users and not the kind you usually see in urban fantasy novels. I found his insights into the social dynamics of Dark Mages quite enlightening and it felt very realistic. Although he doesn't dwell on it, there are some very disturbing and dark (no pun intended) aspects to their concept of power and how it's obtained and used.
This took a while to read because the print in my copy was tiny! But that doesn't mean I was bored. I was too sucked in to feel boredom. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, so I do have high expectations, but this one exceeded those nicely. I was drawn into this world whenever I picked up the book to read, and I will definitely read more of this series.
I highly recommend this to fans of urban fantasy, especially those looking for something different!
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