Thursday, June 28, 2018

One Disastrous Decision

MARKED (Alex Verus #9)

Benedict Jacka
Orbit Books
July 3, 2018

Marked hits the ground running with Alex Verus leading a Keeper retrieval team in search of magically imbued items lost in the disastrous raid on the Light Council Vault in Bound. Of the two orchestrators of the attack, Morden is in prison awaiting trial for treason and Richard Drakh is at liberty. As Morden's aide, Alex now has a precarious seat on the Junior Council. Alex has as many enemies as ever, some who want to use his skills as a Diviner Mage, and others who just want him dead. As usual, Alex is walking a tightrope with his survival and that of his core of close allies his primary goal. When the Council wants him to negotiate with Morden to capture Drakh, his survival becomes even more precarious. The only solution that Alex can see is to amass more personal power. Especially since it is now clear that Drakh's primary interest in Alex is in gaining control of Anne, his ally, and a powerful Life Mage. Alex's interest in Anne is more than friendship, something that has been obvious to everyone but him.

The series has a very long story arc, stemming from Alex's disastrous decision as a young man to apprentice to the Dark Mage, Richard Drakh. Revolted by Drakh, Alex escaped from him, but as a result, very few Light Mages will ever trust him. Alex kept a low profile as a shopkeeper in London for several years, but his enemies drove him out and destroyed the shop. He and his core allies have been bouncing from one crisis to the next, but Alex has done his best to keep them safe. The Dark Mages are a horrendous bunch, but The Light Mages aren't much better; arrogant, hidebound and addicted to playing political games. They see Alex as a convenient tool, but one not to be trusted.

Benedict Jacka's excellent series is an impressive sustained feat of storytelling and imagination. The world he has created is endlessly fascinating, peopled with likable characters as well as those we love to hate. Alex himself is continually evolving, becoming more hardened, as well as more crafty. He is perhaps not as likable as the young man we first met, but circumstances have demanded a change. Marked ends on a somewhat more positive note than some of the previous novels, but stay tuned.

I highly recommend the Alex Verus series and would start with the first in the series, Fated. It's possible to read Marked without all the background, but why miss out? Thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars 

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