Review: Fated, by Benedict Jacka

This is the first book in the Alex Verus series, of which there are currently three – and a fourth one coming out later in 2013. A friend from Australia recommended them to me, saying “If you liked the Dresden Files, you’ll like these.” That set a high bar, but I was not disappointed.

In many ways, it’s a Dresden-like world with wizards and other magical creatures hiding beneath the surface. He even makes a cute reference to Dresden with a remark of “supposedly there’s a wizard in Chicago who advertises in the phone book.” There’s even some wizard organizations, of both good and evil varieties. And our hero is one of these wizards, somewhat caught between the two camps, much like Dresden.

But the similarities end there.

Alex Verus is no fire-wielding combat wizard. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. In face to face combat, he can’t do much more than throw a punch or try to trip you. You see, he’s a diviner who can see the future. But of course, seeing the future means you can change it, so what he really sees is the massively bifurcating tree of possible futures.

Do I turn right or left here? Do I say hello or run like hell? Do I accept this offer, or do I find out that it truly is an offer I cannot refuse? He can explore all those options and try to make the decisions that keep his body and soul joined. But he can only see so far, and he can’t see past someone else’s independent decisions. So, like most good diviners, he puts most of his efforts towards laying low and staying out of trouble.

But then trouble comes looking for him. The various powers-that-be want help cracking open a mysterious artifact, and to do that, they need a diviner. It’s a magical safe-box of sorts, and who else would ask to see the future of all those magical combination locks? Alex is not exactly at the top of the list for diviners, but the best of them have all coincidentally realized that now is a good time to be far, far away from this artifact and those who would open it. Alex isn’t quite that smart, or that lucky.

So he gets drawn back into a world he had done his best to leave behind, hoping he’s smart enough to find his way back out again when it’s all over.

I liked it. A lot. As much as I enjoy Harry Dresden blundering in with his blasting rod and .44 Magnum , he solves more of his day-to-day problems through brute force rather than cunning guile. Alex Verus doesn’t have the option of firepower.

He has to be smart. Or dead. He tries to be smart.