I really like Jim Butcher's books, especially the Dresden Files. So, when I saw a new novel, Fated by Benedict Jacka, that has a cover blurb by Jim Butcher reading: "Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously--and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list." Well, now I'm intrigued. That's obviously the next book for me! After all, I have many long "Cold Days" to wait before the next book of the Dresden Files and I would like to find some great new books between now and then. Benedict Jacka even gives the Dresden Files a nod in this quote from the first chapter: "I've even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under "Wizard", though that's probably an urban legend."
This urban fantasy does an excellent job of setting up the world that Alex Verus inhabits. Set in London, there are many familiar elements for a reader used to urban fantasy: magic is real, but rare and your average mortal overlooks it. There's even a council of the more powerful mages, divided into Light and Dark. But it works! The Dark mages hold a rather Nietzsche-like philosophy of 'might makes right'. The Light mages don't come up that much in this book but they're just *sure* that they can work with the Dark mages. There have been forty odd years of peace after all! Because trusting that guy who thinks that if you can't stop him from doing whatever he wants it's your own fault for being weak... Yup, that's such a good idea...
Our protagonist, Alex Verus is a diviner. That's all the magic he has. He has no offensive or defense magic except that if he thinks about a question he can know the answer - at least in so far as the human mind can follow the possible branching futures. So, if someone is shooting line of sight bolts of death at him he can see which hiding places let him not die right now. He can use those moments in hiding to see paths which might trick his enemy to the roof's edge. If he needs to see something with more possible branches it might take him hours or days of looking down each path of the future, one path at a time, to see the path that leads to the outcome he wants. He can acquire magic items to help him, he can acquire allies, he even owns a gun but there's no future in which Alex is going to become a more versatile mage. The allies that are introduced in the first book include a minor air elemental and a woman named Luna who is cursed with luck. Bad things never happen to Luna. Bad things happen to anyone she passes by. Actually touching another person isn't a good idea for Luna since she's not evil.
This is the start of a trilogy. The publisher is putting out the next two books over the course of the next several months to try to build up this new author's readership. A lot of the first book is world building, but it's a really interesting world. I wanted nothing more than to see what was around the next corner. I'm really looking forward to Cursed and Taken this spring and summer. One book by this author wasn't nearly enough. I finished this book in a single sitting because I just couldn't put it down. And having finished the first book in this series I'll say that I can see Harry Dresden and Alex Versus sitting down in a quiet pub for a beer or two and enjoying the company.