I love urban fantasy, the thought that there could be a world co-existing with our own that we don’t know about. That one idea offers so many possibilities and so much creative potential. With that in mind, it’s always a treat to come across an author that raises the bar with his imagination and ability.
Benedict Jacka has created a brilliant protagonist in the probability mage, Alex Vera. It might not sound as exciting as a mage who can call fire or disintegrate with a single lash of power but Alex can look into the future and see what options are open to him to get the outcome he needs. Whether that is to dodge the incoming flames or just not be standing where the lash of power is going to hit; sometimes it’s useful just to get an annoying customer out of the way so he can deal with something more important. It can be dizzying the way he can map things out but it’s intricate, unique and very well realised. I love his personality as well, he can be snarky but has a heart of gold.
I enjoyed how Jacka limits the power as well. Even with Alex’s powers of prognostication, sometimes he can find no good outcome and has to settle for one that just won’t get him killed. Then of course, there is the problem of free will; he can’t tell what is going to happen until someone has decided on a specific course of action, not all outcomes are obvious.
The plot was fairly simple, a battle for an item of power with both forces of light and dark vying for it and each trying to use Alex to their own end. The enjoyment in the book comes from the writing, the story and the characterisations. Alex doesn’t have many friends but those he does are beyond the norm. An Air Elemental that gets distracted by shiny things, a girl who is cursed with causing bad luck for anyone who gets close to her. The people they are up against whether of the light or dark side of magic are out for themselves and the power they can wield. The only person who seems to care about anyone else is Alex. He has a dark history he thought he had put behind him but the major players in this rush for power are determined to shape his future and it’s something he must deal with or go down a very bad route.
The story starts at a leisurely pace but as the pressure mounts that pace increases to a thrilling conclusion.
I absolutely loved the reference to Harry Dresden, it even made me laugh out loud, and while Jacka is obviously a huge Jim Butcher fan he doesn’t try to emulate him. His work is unique, gripping and very, very good.