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Fantasy Friday Review – Fated

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

FATED is the first in another urban fantasy series featuring a wizard in the big city. Alex Versus owns a magic shop in London and his skill is seeing the future. This can be pretty helpful, as it allows him to look at any number of possible futures until he gets to the series of choices that brings him what he wants. But it doesn’t always allow him to escape trouble.

The Council (there’s always a Council) approaches him for help in acquiring an object of great power, guarded by a number of magical traps, and they think Alex is just the person who can come up with the correct sequence of moves to defeat the barriers. There is mutual loathing between Alex and the Council, and it should tell Alex something that they’ve been unable to contact any other seer to do this job.

Meanwhile, Alex’s friend Luna brings him a weird little red cube, obviously something magical, but within minutes they’re both in trouble as three nasty Dark wizards show up spoiling for a fight.  Alex’s precognition tells him they would kill him if they knew about the cube, so he hides it, but it doesn’t stay secret for long.

Multiple powerful wizards all want this mysterious object and for all of them, the way to it goes through Alex. Precognition doesn’t help you much if all the possibilities end up with you dying. Alex is going to have to think fast.

There are a lot of familiar tropes in this series – there’s a shout-out to Harry Dresden early on and I saw another reference to a popular SF author. I really liked Luna and her curse, and I was happy when Jacka used it to good effect late in the book. I liked minor character Arachne better than Starbreeze who seemed a little too handy to have around.

While the tone of this book isn’t dark, this is a nasty wizard’s world. The Dark wizards philosophy is right out of Crowley – “Do what thou wilt” – and is survival of the cruelest. Slaves, torture, whatever, anything goes. The Council, or Light wizards, do not care about this as long as they’re not inconvenienced. Not a place I’d want to spend time in.

I found the pacing rather slow as Alex spends a lot of time explaining his world. Jacka manages to work some of it in as conversation with Luna, but there’s just a lot of exposition. I expect this gets less the farther you read in the series. There are some logic gaps about how things work, but it didn’t do much more than raise my eyebrows a couple times.  Alex is a pretty good character, not as sharp as Harry Dresden or as funny as Atticus O’Sullivan, but he’s very relatable. His precognition skill could make for some really interesting plots. At the time I’m writing this there are 12 in the series, so he’s definitely found a loyal audience. If I knew someone who had never read urban fantasy, I’d probably recommend Jim Butcher first, just because the pacing is better. But anyone who liked that ought to like this just fine.





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