Cursed by Benedict Jacka is the second book in the adventures of chance mage, Alex Verus.
This time he is trying to train Luna as his apprentice, run his store in Camden and dealing with some weird and wonderful (and sometimes nuisance!) customers who can’t seem to take a hint, avoid the mages he managed to upset in his last adventure and dodge assassins who would like to kill him. Nothing different there until that is, he gets asked to consult on an investigation into the death of a magical creature which turns out to have been killed by anything but normal methods. To add to his problems, someone takes an item called the Monkey’s Paw (a twisted genie in the lamp wish granting item) and his front window is smashed when a creature created by a mage comes flying in to kill a woman who has just rushed in asking for help!
This might seem like a lot of different story lines to have in one book but Jacka manages to deal with them all (and a couple more) very well and they all lead into one another and combine to become a very interesting and readable book. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Luna and Alex as he tries to train her and the fact that, for a short while, Alex seems to be in a sort of love triangle. Jacka also expands his world very slightly to include magical creatures and new terms for organisations (if you will) of dark and light mages and how the mages all get along, such as agreements and a ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ deals economy.
Problem I had with this book though is that it felt like Jacka was recycling the format he had in the first book. The meeting and setting up of agreements and alliances between mages, the use of Elsewhere in the same place, the battle in one place then another, the arrival at the Big Bad‘s home for part of the book…
Of course, if it isn’t broke, don’t break it but surely you would mix it up some? Why have Alex go through the same set of events, just to a different storyline? The battles in this book doesn’t seem as good as in the first and there seems to be a large focus on Alex using guns instead of his magic and wit and brain to fight. This book definitely seems to fall into the second book slump territory which is a shame as he has a brilliant concept and a different spin on the urban fantasy concept. I hope this is not a sign of things to come for the third book (which I have lined up ready to read) but there does seem to be an indication that things will improve and the format change, especially as the master/apprentice relationship looks set to make things new and interesting. Other concepts are ready to be introduced and maybe this will improve the next book.