Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taken by Benedict Jacka Book 3 of the Alex Verus Series

 I'm going to say right from the beginning that I am huge fanpoodle of Benedict Jacka.  It took me longer than I would have liked to get to this book, but when I finally started, I read it from start to finish in one sitting.  Be prepared for much fanpoodling.

The days of a peaceful life running his store are over for Alex Verus.  After what happened with the Fateweaver he is now highly visible and in high demand.  When apprentices start to go missing, Alex decides to take a job hunting down the reason.  With his apprentice Luna at his side, Alex must face a force which may very well be impossible to stop.  If that were not enough Onyx, an old faux has a score he wants to settle.

Normally speaking, I don't like books with a lot of action but the interweaving of mystery and the interesting characters were absolutely gripping. Luna has finally gotten a degree of control over her power and though she will never be an equal of a mage, she is dangerous all on her own.  I love the growth that we have seen in this character from book one. Though she has a lot to learn, Luna is no longer content to wait to be saved and has become a very active part of Verus' investigations.

For the first time in this series, Jacka introduced characters of colour in this novel.  Variam is a heat mage and extremely powerful.  He has been given a raw deal by mage society and is determined to survive.  He is not easily trusting which is understandable given his history but he does in the end learn to trust Alex.  He is absolutely devoted to Anne though he does not like her but because his brother died trying to protect her.  I had a problem with this until it was revealed that Anne is a descendant of Indian mages who attacked the Jagadev - a non human of Indian descent. Jacka could have fallen into the trap of making Variam and Anne completely dependent on Verus as is often the case when the protagonist is a White male, but at the end of the day, they will have to make their own way in the world.  It means something to have a White male protagonist admit that though he has more experience, he is not as powerful as the two characters of colour.

One of things that I like best about Verus is that he lives in a universe of grey.  Thanks to the constant machinations of mage politics, Verus falls into neither the light or the dark mage categories.  He is not afraid to kill if he has to survive but he does not seek out violence.  Verus knows where his strengths lie and he never gets drawn into a battle where he does not have an edge.  I continue to find his talent of precognition to be fascinating and though this could essentially be a passive power, Jacka has made it very active and it heightens the plot.

Okay, I know a good review does not happen without some sort of criticism but really, do I have to say something negative about the precious?  Come on, it's the precious.  Fine.  This is book three in the series and Jacka has yet to introduce any GLBT characters or disabled characters.  The largest fault that I can find in this story is erasure and given the setting of the story, there is no excuse for this.  I am hoping that this will change in upcoming books because  it seems that Jacka is trying to widen his world with each successive novel.

Of the three books in this series, I think that Taken is the one I like the best.  It is perfectly balanced between action and mystery.  Though I did figure out who the antagonist was before the ending, I wasn't sure exactly how Jacka would bring the pieces together. The novel was very quickly paced and it never felt that random events were happening to Verus and instead it was clear that he was actually investigating. This is a book I recommend that you don't pick up unless you have the time to finish it because it will be nearly impossible to point down.  The fanpoodling is officially over.