“It was a slow day, so I was reading a book at my desk and seeing into the future.’
Bloody good hook to get the reader interested, huh? 🙂 Yep, that’s what kept me holding onto the book after I saw the cover and after I read the back. (That’s my ritual when choosing what to read next – cover, back-blurb, first paragraph.)
As far as Urban Fantasy goes I’m still a newbie-reader –I haven’t yet read any of Harry Dresden’s adventures, for instance (though I enjoyed the 1-season TV series)- and in my opinion Urban Fantasy as a genre still needs to do quite a lot to distance itself from what most people (at least, readers in South Africa) think is Urban Fantasy, namely Paranormal Romance. And part of that ‘distancing’ is staying away from all the tried and tired ‘creatures’ such as vampires and werewolves and succubae (is that a word? Office’s dictionary seems to think so). I think it will be decades before most people stop thinking of the Twilight Saga when they think of vampires and werewolves (something I definitely do not thank Stephanie Meyer for).
So when novels written to be a part of the Urban Fantasy genre are published I always look for something different, something other, if you get my meaning. Think along the lines of Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City or Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels. That kind of other.
I was really chuffed that Fated fell into that category. 🙂
Take, for example, the central protagonist – Alex Verus, a mage whose forte is probability. And that’s practically it – he’s not particularly fit (ladies, I don’t mean that kind of fit), or strong, or rich. He keeps to himself and runs a little store. He’s been around a while, been through the dark and has got the scars and psychological damage to prove it. He’s the closest to the Everyman that I’ve encountered in Urban Fantasy and that made him easy for me to identify with, to groan along with, even to laugh at and swear at on occasion. His power, too, is damned cool – he can’t twiddle his fingers and bring down a building or summon flesh-rending badass demon to do his fighting for him. He struggles and gets hurt and pissed off, just as we do in situations that seem too much for us, and it’s important for a character to be able to be human; Benedict succeeded in making Alex the kind of character I want to read about and that I’ll gladly follow through a series and cheer on. 🙂
World-wise, though, the novel didn’t impress me – I’m not saying at all that Benedict didn’t do a good job of describing and portraying the places we travel to in this novel (since I’ve never been to the UK, I can’t judge), but where A Madness of Angels brought the city and its environs to the forefront, Fated keeps the city in the background; which is fine. It works for the story. What I’m saying is that the city in Fated just wasn’t memorable, with the exception of the place where the final act takes place. I knew where the characters were, where they were going, etc. so I was satisfied because of the novel’s character-focus.
The other personalities we meet in the novel were pretty damned interesting, too – Luna especially, since there’s actually not much that she can do to help Alex, being his apprentice. She’s got a very strange but cool (in terms of plot-driving) curse to deal with and is actually quite an important character, not just a space-filler or side-kick. I don’t like he name, though – reminds me too much of Ms. Lovegood…
The magic in fated was, while not groundbreaking (or should that be ‘realmbreaking’), good enough to feel fresh and interesting, and served to hold my attention in the various magic-heavy / magical-battles’ scenes in the novel. The magic involved in the novel’s climax was pretty damned cool. 🙂
So, all things considered, Fated was a great read – Alex is a great character and well-deserving of the main-protagonist focus, the rest of the cast added nicely to the atmosphere, humour and tension of the book (as well as kicking off some mysteries that will hopefully be investigated as the series continues), the magic was cool and different enough to hold my attention and not fade into the background, and the plot sped along nicely, neither faltering nor sticking. Benedict is a great writer and, though I haven’t read Jim Butcher’s Dresden-series yet, I can tell that he’s deserving of the praise that Jim gave him. 🙂
A very cool, humorous and intelligent read that doesn’t over-reach or over-promise but entertains and holds the attention page after page. 🙂
7 / 10
Book 2, Cursed, is already available, and Book 3, Taken, will be in South Africa in October. 🙂
Until next time,