Friday, October 12, 2012

From Kung Fu demons to Wizards in London

So I finished A Devil in the Details a few days ago (Seriously, the ending reminded me of Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries, wherein the murderer inevitably goes after the narrator, who hasn't figured out whodunit until whodunit shows up with a weapon of narrator destruction. I think the hot cop the narrator is dating would be better served to follow her around, since the killer will inevitably find her first.), and while I enjoyed reading it, it really needed more action building in the mushy middle.

So, now I'm reading Fated by Benedict Jacka, first in his Alex Verus series. (And given this one was published in Feb. of this year and I think Book 2 is already out, I rather imagine his publisher got 3 manuscripts up front.) It got points from me early on for the narrative shout out to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files (the narrator, one Alex Verus, makes a comment about how one mage in Chicago advertises in the Yellow Pages under Wizard), and has continued to entertain, even in the bits that have to stick to the formula of "Urban Fantasy".

Alex, our protagonist, much like Butcher's Harry Dresden has a murky past apprenticed to Dark Mages. (A bit of background here. Rather than defining Light Mages as good and Dark Mages as evil, the set up is much more like the Vorlons vs the Shadows in Babylon 5 [And if you never watched Babylon 5, shame on you. Seasons 2-4 were some of the best Sci-Fi television ever recorded.] In other words, Dictators vs Objectivists.) All mages are more or less policed by a council (at least on the British Isles; while mentions of mages on the continent or across the pond have happened, almost all of the political maneuvering has been in London), and Alex has an issue with the council, since they seem to feel that of he had died at his mentor's hands, the world would have been better served. Or they would have, since then they wouldn't have had to do anything.  

So far, we've met two "people" in his support network. Luna, a part time employee of his (like most protagonists in books of this nature, Alex owns a magic shop) who is the latest beneficiary of a curse laid upon her family by a strega back in the 1500's; and Arachne, a rather large talking tarantula seamstress living in a warded cave in a park. He also has a very flighty air elemental providing transportation for him.

We also have met various faction operatives trying to draw Alex in to the central focus of the book. Liam, who's working for a very powerful Council member, and Cinder, who's working for a very powerful dark mage.

You see, Alex is a Diviner, which plays out a lot like the Foresight gifts in Brian Lumley's Necroscope series. Basically, he can see the possible futures as they might play out and can then select actions to get him where he wants. Which, so far, has kept him from getting killed by a Light Mage with an Air Elemental, a Dark Mage with entropy magic, and a Lightning Elemental warring factions accidentally managed to summon and annoy.

The pacing is quite good, as intrigue abounds, and all the warring factions trying to get Alex to open a relic from an age when the mages warred openly keep the action going. It reminds me a lot of the aforementioned Dresden Files crossed with Simon R. Green's three ongoing series. Really looking forward to see how all of this plays out, since I have my suspicions, but I still have about 150 pages to go.