Reading level: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Trade paperback: 304 pages
Release date: May 29, 2012
Series: Alex Verus #2
Source: Review copy from Penguin
Reviewed by: Jenn
Things are going well for Alex Verus. He’s on moderately good terms with the Council, Luna’s settling in as his apprentice, and nobody has tried to kill him in weeks.
But when a mysterious woman bursts into his shop one night with a construct assassin on her tail, he’s thrown into the middle of a plot to revive a long-forbidden ritual for draining the power from living creatures. Alex’s old enemies Cinder and Deleo are after the secret, as well as a Council mage named Belthas and a mercenary named Garrick; at least one of them is trying to get Alex killed, and unfortunately for Alex he doesn’t know which. And finally, Luna’s found a boyfriend.
In between dodging assassination attempts and trying to keep Luna in one piece, Alex needs to figure out who’s really playing who – and whose side he should be on. He can see the future, but knowing who to trust is something else.
(This is the blurb from Benedict Jacka's website, not the one you'll see on the back of the book.)
I thoroughly enjoyed my first encounter with Alex Verus and so I was thrilled when my review copy of CURSED showed up. (Thank you, Penguin!) FATED was such a strong series debut and so my expectations were rather high for CURSED. And you know what? CURSED completely delivered. It has all of the things I loved about FATED and more.
CURSED picks up a few months after the end of FATED. Alex is a bit more on the radar and he's been working with the Light mages more, though he remains unaligned. He's developed some good working relationships but he still doesn't really trust anyone except for his closest circle. He finds himself sucked into a new mystery when a barghest is found dead and stripped of its magic. At the same time, he has to deal with Luna's new boyfriend, Martin, a monkey's paw, and a damsel in distress. It's not exactly a good time to be Alex Verus. But in true Alex Verus form, he spends his time helping his friends and dodging assassination attempts.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the way that Alex and Luna's relationship evolves. Alex is training Luna so she can handle her curse but they don't have the master/apprentice thing down pat because they're friends too. It's a complicated dynamic and it's interesting to watch them negotiate their new roles, particularly since Alex isn't all that thrilled about Luna's new boyfriend. The events in CURSED force Alex to take a hard look at their relationship and both he nd Luna have some important decisions to make.
I also really enjoyed the main story, about harvesting magic from magical creatures. It really hits home for Alex because of his friendship with Ariadne but I liked it because it explores some of the ethics and senses of responsibility in the main characters in the book. Alex has a much more flexible moral compass than some of the other characters (ahem, Sonder) and you can see the beginnings of potential future tensions. Alex wants to do the right thing but it's not going to be at the expense of those he cares about. Not everyone is quite so practical.
There are also some great moments with Cinder in CURSED. He came off like a thug with a soft spot for Deleo in the first book but we get to see more than that this time around. He may be a Dark Mage but he's got his own code and he's much more astute than I realized from FATED. Deleo also has some intriguing scenes. I don't want to say too much because the context might spoil some stuff for you but I will say that I would really, really like to know what's going on in her head.
I could keep gushing but I think this is a good place for me to stop. CURSED is another great urban fantasy novel that will keep you on the edge of our seat. It's got a thrilling plot, engaging characters, and a well developed world and it will leave you counting the days until book 3 comes out. (FYI, that's a whole 68 days away.) Thankfully, Benedict Jacka is a wonderful writer and I'm sure I'll be re-reading CURSED between now and then to tide me over.