Book Review: Cursed (Alex Verus #2)

Alex Verus is a diviner. It’s a fascinating, and different way to do magic. He’s hard to surprise, but he lacks any kind of flash-bang other than what he carries around. And facing people who CAN do flash-bang magic, his advantage can often seem dubious.

The balance with a mage like this is to make it plausible to surprise the reader despite a character who is functionally all-but-omniscient. Anything he wants to know about anything in his vicinity, he can know. Past, present, or future. He’s also been a person who preferred to stay low-profile, but now, thanks to his success in the 1st book, he has to face increasing notoriety. And that represents his current internal conflict. Along with his mixed desires on what to do with Luna, his apprentice? Or does he hope for more? The curse on her is another fascinating twist of magic in the series.

The other interesting facet of the book is the fact that knowing ‘about’ the facts is not the same as understanding motive. Verus is constantly finding himself in deep games. And knowing what someone intends doesn’t put him any closer to the why of it. He still has to be a detective to solve mysteries. And because that means investigating people who can crispy-critter him at any time, it’s deep games with more dangerous opponents.

To go with the magic system, Jacka has also created an interesting political universe for mages, and put our hero in the middle of them. Neither ‘light’ or ‘dark’ mages are trustworthy. And if dark mages are even less so, not *all* of them are black as night and incapable of honoring deals. They’re just ruthlessly Darwinian. The ‘light’ mages aren’t always telling the truth, or keeping to their laws, either. Alex is a former Dark apprentice who apparently grew a conscience. As a result, he’s useful to both sides, but trusted by neither.

It all makes an intriguing series, with interesting characters and well-thought out mysteries. A series that fits close behind Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series among the best Urban Fantasy series today.

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