This is the fourth book in the Alex Verus series, and while it can be read on its own, I’d advise anyone to read the three previous titles – “Fated”, “Cursed” and “Taken” – first.
Recently life has been easy and peaceful for Alex Verus. It may be a bit crammed sharing his house with three young adepts but our Mage finds he quite enjoys having Variam, Anna and Luna treating his apartment as their home. Alex is starting to feel that maybe he has atoned for the sins of his past; maybe now he can leave the darkness he’s been trying to get away from behind him and start a new, brighter future.
Of course things are never that easy. And just when it seems that the past is well and truly behind him it returns to hunt him down for the one thing he has never been able to forgive himself for.
And those hunting Alex won’t give up until they have their revenge, and he is dead. They refuse to listen to him and are determined to achieve their goal, even if it means going through those who would stand with Alex.
Alex has to confront his past and make some very difficult choices. If he manages to win this battle he might lose the few people he has grown close to. If he doesn’t win, he won’t be around to tell the tale or assist his friends. Caught between a rock and a hard place, there are no easy options for our diviner.
This is by far the darkest Alex Verus novel so far. While the story is still written with a light hand and there still are moments of light relief and humour, be it of the dark variety at times, this is the book in which the reader learns the truth about Alex’s time with the dark mage Richard and about what happened to make him run away from his master to face a life of solitude and uncertainty. And it is not a pretty picture.
In fact, that is one of the things that make this book such a very good read. There are no easy answers here. There is no clear distinction between good and bad, dark and light. There is no doubt that what happened in the past was very, very wrong. And it is quite easy to understand why those who are hunting Alex want their revenge. And yet, while his pursuers are unaware of this, the reader knows that Alex no longer is the person he was ten years ago and can’t help rooting for him.
While this is a work of fantasy it poses some interesting questions; is it possible for a person to redeem themselves? Are we allowed to go to any length in order to protect ourselves? What exactly makes a person either good or bad, and is it even possible to make such a clear distinction? Like I said, interesting questions and something I could ponder about for hours.
I like where Benedict Jacka is going with these books. With every subsequent title Alex becomes a more rounded character. And Jacka doesn’t take the easy way out; he doesn’t try to make his main character look sympathetic regardless of what he has to do, isn’t afraid to show Alex warts and all and leave it up to the reader to make up their minds about him. Others may disagree but I only find myself getting more interested in this character and everything he comes up against with every subsequent book.
And talking about subsequent books; the final chapter in Chosen seems to indicate that the best, and in all likelihood, darkest part of this tale is still to come. Bring it on! I can’t wait to see what will happen next.