At this year’s New York Comic Con I had the pleasure of meeting Benedict Jacka, author of the Alex Verus series. What initially drew my attention to these novels was the burb on the front cover of the first novel, Fated (Ace Books, March 2012): “Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremedously–and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list.” – Jim Butcher.
I love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden is one of my all time favorite fictional characters, and I read each new book the day it comes out, so of course I was going to love this series too, right? I think a lot of people can be very critical about books that are a lot like other books. They are just riding on the coattails of others, they are stealing ideas, etc. etc. Here I’ll tell you why I don’t feel that way about Fated.
First of all, yes, this book very much had the flavor of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and I would posit that it’s written as an elevated type of fan fiction, or perhaps a better way to put it is that it’s an homage to Harry Dresden. Alex even references the Chicago wizard himself by referring to an urban legend about a wizard who advertises in the phone book. But Alex Verus is not Harry Dresden. Jacka takes the wizard in an urban setting idea and puts his own unique flavor on it. Alex is a diviner, a seer of probable futures, and a mage who straddles the line between Dark and Light magic. He is not traditionally powerful, and his motivations for involving himself in a battle are unclear even to himself. I think what I found most endearing about this character was his reluctance to see his own power for what is is.
While one could read this novel on its own and be satisfied, there is also that lingering feeling of wanting to know more about Alex. I was happy to learn during Jacka’s panel at NYCC that he fully intends to stay focused on this series and continue telling us more about this guy. Three more books are already out in this series, Cursed, Taken, and Chosen, and I intend to add those to my reading list. If you like the Dresden Files and are looking for something to read while you wait for the next installment, Skin Game, to come out, then I highly recommend picking up the Alex Verus series. You will not be disappointed.
Also, I can’t end this post without showing one of my favorite pictures from NYCC 2013 – Shadow Ops series author Myke Cole attempting to draw on Benedict Jacka’s face. I did not take this picture, but I was there when it was being taken, just to the left of the photographer, whose name I did not catch. M. L. Brennan is to the left of Benedict with Django Wexler behind her.