Book review – Cursed: An Alex Verus Novel by Benedict Jacka

May 19, 2013 9:11 am

alex_verus (fan art)This is a book that I picked up at my local library because I was looking for a nice fantasy to get lost in. The key to creating a good fantasy book, I have learned, is to put a unique twist or to view something from a unique angle in the story. Most readers of fantasy, or readers in general, have read about magical creatures, spells, wizards and so on. There always has to be an interesting twist or angle for it to usually stand out, and characters that are so convincing that you sympathise with them usually more than help.


In Camden, London, lives Alex Verus who runs a magic shop, not a magic trick shop, but a true magic shop. He is a diviner, a person who is able to see all possible futures with every decision that is made; and for that he makes an excellent detective. His friend and apprentice, Luna, also has her special talents, luck is always on her side, but at the fatal expense of those who come too near, this power has its limits, and the lack of physical contact with anyone leaves her isolated and with few friends.

When Alex is recruited by a member of the powerful Light Mage’s Council to investigate the mysterious death of a magical creature, he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into a conspiracy. There are no physical signs of harm on the creature, only that its magical essence has been drained.

In a world of ‘mages’ with different talents, magical creatures and armed henchmen Alex must survive and find out who is responsible for this crime. But he must treat carefully, for the world of ‘Mages’ and Magic is a dangerous one full of powerful men who have their own interests. And it seems that some want him dead.



The book starts off with some light suspense, and there is a lot of action throughout, meaning one will seldom get bored. The descriptions when setting the scenes are simple, which makes this an easy and an enjoyable read as well. This is not to say that the quality of the writing is bad, on the contrary it does its job well in entertaining the reader.

Benedict Jacka rightfully makes this world a brutal and violent one as well, people don’t just die – they get burned, decapitated, frozen and ripped apart. I always thought the idea odd that a story that includes powerful magic doesn’t have these elements. And the grittiness of any story is something that adds more realism to an otherwise fantastic world.

Yet my biggest gripe is that I don’t feel it takes advantage of London as much as it should. All of the characters seem to speak the same way. I don’t know if it is my love for Guy Ritchie films such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – but I would have liked to have read some characters who had definite personalities that were expressed by different accents – especially some tough cockney lads. Who doesn’t like tough cockney lads?! The more serious point is that the story is set in London, but the characters don’t seem to be a part of London at all. Except maybe for one of them who is a rich man based in Canary Wharf – but that’s the only aspect really.

But it is a book I enjoyed because I was happy to find out that this was one book of three in the Alex Verus trilogy (clue is in the name). So if you are looking for: a new magical world to discover, action which includes guns and explosions, a small detective element – then please give this a read!

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