Book Review: Chosen by Benedict Jacka

Yes! I have finally finished reading it! Sorry for the delay!

Alex Verus is back. He’s been having a peaceful time following his last adventure but that is broken when he finds himself being hunted by a group of Adepts. Their leader wants revenge on Alex for something that happened in his past when he was apprenticed to his dark master, Richard. He is also helping a Council Keeper (magical police officer if you will) who is following up rumours that Richard has returned. Forced to face up and delve into his past to solve both problems, Alex finds himself questioning his path in life and where his path will lead in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is written with the same humour and style as previous books but features a much darker story and darker, more adult themes. Even so, it was fascinating exploring Alex’s background, revealing more and new information about how things had been during his apprenticeship and particularly seeing how his fellow apprentices ended up joining up with Richard and their lives before their apprenticeships. It also allowed the reader to sympathise and maybe starting to like a character who might not have before deserved sympathy.

It was also enjoyable to see the darker side of the Alex character and seeing how dark he could be. It also leaves the reader stepping back and wondering just how cold and how vicious Verus could possibly get. The colder side of him was very enjoyable and I loved reading that side of him. I would like to see that side perhaps come out a bit more and certainly leaves me wanting to read more of his adventures. Maybe it’s because I don’t usually come across such dark characters and they are so unusual in modern fiction. Alex is an anti-hero and that’s what makes the character so fascinating I think. Or maybe I need to start reading wider.

The end of the book leaves the reader on a cliffhanger, unlike the other books which had most of their narratives all tied up neatly at the end and creating a nice ending. Maybe this is indicative that Jacka and his publishers have gained confidence in the series, allowing him to have the cliffhanger ending, trusting that there is a big enough and loyal enough fan base to sustain this fantastic series. There is potential after all that this series could be the one that older Skulduggery Pleasant fans will move to reading, after the ending of that series next year.

The only criticism I really have is that the last chapter seems to be acting as a somewhat drawn out epilogue. It is certainly required and there is nothing wrong with the chapter. I just think I might be being a little picky.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I think it might just be my favourite of the series. The darker, more adult story in this one is very well written, shocking and fascinating in equal measure. The character got darker and asked what happens when your past comes back to haunt and kill you. I really would recommend this book to people looking for an adult fantasy series to enjoy and to the older (16+) Skulduggery Pleasant fans.

 

Book Review: Taken by Benedict Jacka

I finished this book Monday and was intending to get the review up then but that didn’t happen due to life.

Taken is the third book in the Alex Verus series and this one sees him plunged yet again into danger with his new apprentice, Luna.

Apprentices are going missing. Just disappearing into thin air. The Light Council have no idea what is going on so call upon Alex to investigate. At every turn, Alex seems to be pointed towards Fountain Reach, where the White Stone Tournament (a duelling competition between apprentices) is being held. Alex is forced to think on his feet as he has to protect himself, his apprentice and others as he investigates and this time, he might not be so lucky to get out unharmed…

In the review for Cursed, I commented that Jacka had seem to recycle the format of the first book and I expressed fears that this would be repeated in book 3. These fears were unfounded though as the format is well and truly broken. No Elsewhere, much less of the alliances and more focus on Alex and his skills and use of his divination magic and wit to get through battles. I didn’t speak of this in the last review, though it did feature briefly in another way, but Alex had to use his brain to get past the fact that his magic is being blocked to a certain point in this book.

All of this made me smile and happy that Jacka had gone off in a different direction when plotting and structuring this novel.

This book seemed darker to me compared to the earlier ones and more danger and threat was included but this made the book more enjoyable to me. Again, Jacka has expanded his world and showed more of it which I feel he is very clever in doing and I read his books as a writer of fantasy myself and learn from them.

The fight scenes are better than in Chosen I feel, more active and the type that was seen in Fated, the first book. Alex and Luna are forced to fight in unique ways against enemies who are able to use more offensive magic against them but this makes the battles more interesting and draws the reader in further.

I have only two criticisms for this book. The first is the fact that I worked out who and had an inkling of why the antagonist was doing what they were doing before Alex figured it out. Whether or not Jacka intended for this to be the case, I do not know but it annoyed me somewhat that Alex failed to do so as early as I did. Yes, it is a weak criticism but I do honestly think this. The only other one I have is that the ending seemed a little drawn out and maybe could have been condensed by a page or two.

All in all, this book is better than Chosen (which suffers somewhat from the second book slump) and feels darker and has more danger in it providing a real sense of threat towards the characters than any of the earlier ones. The change in structuring prevents a feeling of déjà vu as well the limited removal of Alex skills, forcing him to use his brain and not his brawn to defeat his adversaries.