I got the chance to return to Benedict Jacka’s fun Alex Verus series recently with the second book, Cursed. Review with some potential spoilers after the cut.
Cursed continues the adventures of Alex Verus, a London-based mage who owns his own magic shop. He doesn’t sell tricks or things. He sells magical items, but most people don’t know that and the really dangerous stuff is kept hidden away. Most of the time. More on that in a bit.
Previously, Jacka had established his world as one where Alex is a neutral mage in the world where most mages are either Light or Dark, with Light Mages working for the Council. Don’t let the names fool you. Light Mages aren’t automatically good. They’re just more likely to be discreet when it comes to outsiders. That includes magical creatures like elemental spirits and other things. Mages specialize in one field of magic. The field chooses them. Some are good in a fight. Some aren’t. Favors are the currency of choice.
Alex’s speciality? Divination. He can’t really fight. He can just see probable outcomes. That makes him essentially impossible to surprise, and he can learn a whole lot by just looking at what can happen if he follows certain paths.
Previously, Alex picked up an apprentice in the form of a young woman named Luna. Luna is cursed. Some ancestor of hers angered a mage way back when and now a silver cloud of misfortune, invisible to non-mages, drifts off her and causes misfortune for others while letting her live a charmed life. She can’t get close to anybody, not even a pet, without causing that person great harm. Alex takes her under his wing to help her out in maybe controlling the curse.
As you can tell from the title, the curse comes into play in this book.
As the story begins, Alex is hired by the Council to assist in a hit team against a barghest, a demon dog. Oddly enough, the thing is dead when they arrive. At about that time, Luna meets a guy who maybe she can get close to if he can find a way around it. He goes to see Alex at his shop. Alex takes an immediate dislike to the guy, but the guy finds an imbued artifact on a shelf, a monkey’s paw. Alex didn’t leave it out. These items choose the welder, not the other way around, and Alex knows no one has ever survived all five wishes. After those five, the paw returns to his shop. He can hide it, but eventually it’ll find itself in some other sucker’s hand.
What happens when the guy wishes to be immune to magic? Luna’s curse no longer affects him.
Meanwhile, Alex also meets someone.
And someone seems to be trying to find a way to take magic from magical creatures. Alex has a friend named Arachne, a giant spider who works as a seamstress. She has cause to be worried.
Jacka has created quite a potent mage in Alex. Though he isn’t a physical guy, seeing possible futures makes him good for a lot of things. In terms of physical power, he doesn’t match up to most other mages, but he’s quick on his feet. The guy dodges sniper bullets at one point.
Jacka also has a good sense of humor. One early chapter shows Alex dealing with the weirdoes who wonder into his shop and don’t seem to realize what he actually sells.
Seeing Jacka expand a fun setting and universe worked well for me, and a few plot points were clearly set-ups for future novels. Seeing as how Alex can see the future, that makes sense. I’m going to give this one 9 giant spiders out of ten.