Alex Verus runs the Arcana Emporium in Camden. On the surface a new-age shop, both Alex and his shop are a lot more. In fact, Alex is a mage, a diviner. He can look into the future investigate the various options open to him and take the path that suits him best.
In a world where there are both Light and Dark mages, Alex stands alone, not part of either side and determined to keep it that way. The others are not prepared to leave Alex alone though. It starts with a visit from the Light Council represented by Lyle, a blast from the past Alex would just as soon not see again. The Council want Alex‘s help in retrieving a relic from an artefact in the British Museum, an relic they are not prepared to tell him anything about and assistance that would go more or less unrewarded. Alex doesn’t have to think twice before turning them down.
One of Alex’s few friends is Luna, a young woman burdened by a curse which means that anybody who gets too close to her gets very unlucky. The kind of unlucky that gets people killed.
She finds objects for Alex and shortly after his meeting Lyle, Alex meets Luna and receives a red crystal. A crystal Alex can’t divine at all although Luna says it glowed for her when she picked it up.
And with that the trouble really starts. Soon both the Light Council and Dark mages have Alex cornered and he finds himself having to come up with a plan where he does retrieve the very coveted relic without surrendering it to either side. A plan that might work if he’s lucky and keeps a close eye on all the possible futures. A plan that will most likely mean death for both him and Luna. A plan that will certainly bring Alex face to face with the past he’s been hiding from for years.
This book was a very happy surprise for me. I’m not quite sure what I expected when I started reading, but this story exceeded any and every expectation I had.
While I always enjoy a story where the forces of good are up against those of evil, nothing is quite as straight forward as that in this book.
While you might expect the distinction between the Light Council and the Dark mages to be as clear as the difference between white and black, things aren’t quite as obvious as that. And the main characters aren’t one-dimensional either, which makes the story very interesting and realistic. Alex has his past to keep away from and this need makes him a loner. Luna is a loner out of necessity and deeply unhappy because of it. Starbreeze, and elemental Alex calls upon when he needs help travelling over any distance in a hurry is cute as well as very easily distracted and provides some light relief in a somewhat dark story.
Yes, there are some strong similarities between this book and the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, but the author is well aware of this. In fact there is a reference on page 3 to “one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under Wizard” which made me smile, especially since this book is endorsed by Jim Butcher on the front cover.
This book is a great find for anybody who enjoys urban fiction and those books by Butcher. As for me, I hope to read the second Alex Verus novel, Cursed, sooner rather than later.