Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka

cursedSeries: Alex Veras #2
Published by: Orbit
ISBN: 035650025X
ISBN 13: 9780356500256
Published: June 2012
Pages: 309
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Related Reviews: Fated (Alex Veras #1)

‘Cursed’ is the second book in the urban fantasy series ‘Alex Verus’, written by Benedict Jacka. Set in London and five months after the first book of the series, ‘Fated’, we see what kind of trouble Alex is wrapped up in now, and what he’ll have to do to survive to see the prospected third book, ‘Taken’.

Since the events in ‘Fated’, Alex is back in favour with the Light mages and doing a few jobs for them here and there – though this doesn’t mean he trusts them to accept him any time soon, and doesn’t know whether he’ll always remain in their good thoughts. He’s also training Luna the best he is able – which is a bit of a learning curve for them both, as it’s not like Alex has trained anyone before. Luna is soon struggling with the slow pace, and easily distracted when it seems that a faster way to deal with her curse comes along – especially when its packaged in such an attractive way (despite the hairstyle.)

As if that isn’t enough for him to deal with, the plot jumps forwards with a jolt as a beautiful woman bursts into his Camden store once night, begging for help, and is saved from certain death through his quick thinking.

From there, ‘Cursed’ takes us on a fast paced ride through iconic London landmarks, showing a few new faces and many we know from the first book, and ultimately shows what people are willing to do when pushed, even if they aren’t aware of their own limits. We see an interesting view into Alex and what he’s like as a person, from different views of those around him.

Action is plentiful, though otherwise this book suffers from middle-book syndrome as far as character progression goes. In some ways Alex grows (a discussion with the fire mage from the first book comes to mind) and yet in others, he’s almost going through the motions and fighting against the change (which could be seen as characterisation, in a way). However, this isn’t as jarring as one may think. Who says characters always need to adapt and advance, and besides, the events in this book seem to span a week at the most.

That aside, I would have to say I was disappointed to see them resorting to guns – which limited to use of his magic and intelligence to get himself out of situations – one has to admit that if you need to defend your own life, guns do make this a lot easier in many ways, and not many people would overlook their best or easiest protection.

Though it still leads on to my second complaint, and that’s how American this book feels in a number of places – guns are not common in the UK, as they are in America, and the use of ‘sweater’ rather than jumper irks every time. Explosions, while grand are common-place in American action scenes, whereas generally they’re lacking in the British media, and it would have been good to see a different way to show magical potency rather than big booms with explosives.

Regardless, Jacka does interesting things with magic, putting the general uses (fire or ice mages) in the background to focus on different types of magic not often seen – those who can see any and all possible futures, tracking what types of magic have been used recently, as well as magical history. Also, the use of luck in the form of a curse, yet then how the curse can be used in its best possible way. Jacka stretches the limit of how magic could be used when you’re so used to having it as a second nature, and it’s good to see a book step forward and beyond.

This is an easy and captivating read, great for those who’ve visited London or wish to. The writing quality is decent and flowing, one of the better urban fantasy books out there. It is refreshing to read an urban fantasy series where the characters are in their 20s and 30s rather their teens, making it accessible to those who are older, dealing with deeper issues such as what makes a life worthy.

This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 26th June 2012. 

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