Magic in the Court

Tracey and I were excited to be invited to the Magic in the Court event on Monday 10th September, held in honour of Deborah Harkness and the release of her second book – Shadow of Night.  Also along were a few other magical authors – Benedict Jacka *squee*, Ben Aaronovitch, Suzanne McLeod and James Treadwell.

The party was held at a location that had a magic all of it’s own – Goldsboro Books.  I’d never been there before but it’s amazing!  If you are looking for a signed first edition of your favourite author, check them out first!  I couldn’t stop looking 🙂

There was a real mix of people attending, fellow bloggers, reporters, publicists and of course the authors! I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone but it was great to see a few familiar faces and to meet people I had only talked to through twitter.

What is an event write-up without some pics?!

Grete and Tracey meet Benedict JackaSlightly blurry Grete and Deborah HarknessA magical foursome!The magic five and their books!

I managed not to fangirl too much but it was a great pleasure meeting Deborah Harkness.  She is a very gracious lady and is fascinating to listen to.  I was lucky enough to see her again on Wednesday night when she did a talk and book signing at the Waterstones here in Nottingham.  She spoke about her professional work and how she came to write the first book in the series; A Discovery of Witches.  Both books are a wonderful read and I highly recommend them if you are even a little bit interested in history, magic or the Elizabethan era.

Huge thanks to Caitlin Raynor from Headline for inviting us and to Deborah herself who wasn’t fazed by my babbling in the least 😉

Cover Love

There are many times when a particular genre will demand a specific type of cover image, so for me it’s wonderful when I come across something that steps outside the mould.  It’s even better when I find the images beautiful, emotive or clever.  I wanted to share why I loved some covers so much, and while some may be new releases, others may be older but are favourites of mine.  I’m not an artist or an art critic, I just find some things very attractive and book covers are no exception.

Alex Verus series (by Benedict Jacka)

The cover for Fated (the first of Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series) really caught my attention when I first saw it.  I connected with the image immediately and it really made me want to open the book up and get reading straight away!  I’ve now seen all three covers, and I still love them.  Despite their simplicity, they really evoke a strong feeling of London.  The clever use of the lettering in the title, with each one being a little picture in its own right, places them well above the crowd.  I’m not sure there is a typical cover type for Urban Fantasy (excluding a lot of the romance sub-genre), and that gives artists and designers a lot of flexibility which has worked strongly in Jacka’s favour in this case.

Fated was our first look at these covers, and I was instantly drawn to the landmarks worked into the bold two tone title.  The sense of old parchment of the rest of the cover really gave a strong impression something old was behind the modern landmarks.  Simple, yet clever.  The second book (Cursed)  has a darker feel, with a monochrome title.  The landmarks look more like ink splotches and somehow lend the whole image a more sinister air.  Orbit have only just revealed the third cover and it’s a clear step up from the previous two.  The background is now much more obviously a map of London, the bright blue contrasting with the previous more muted covers.  It’s impossible not to see the lettering as blood somehow leaking out into the surrounding landscape.  The phone box is absolutely my favourite element in all the covers so far.

You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but these covers are so brilliant and I honestly can’t wait to find out what story lies behind the cover of Taken.

The covers were designed in-house by Nick Castle and Sian Wilson and I think they have done an outstanding job!

Irreverent Questions With… Benedict Jacka

I’m just going to go all out fan girl about Benedict Jacka!  Fated is a breath of fresh air for urban fantasy and in just one book he rates right up there with Jim Butcher and Mike Carey as my favourites.  When I started reading it, I got that frisson of excitement of reading something unique and very special.  The character of Alex Verus was brilliant and inspired and the setting was as intriguing at the character.  If you love good urban fantasy and I’m talking the gritty and intense non-paranormal romance kind then you HAVE to check this book out.  I will never speak to you again if you don’t!  Read my review and make up your own mind obviously (as long as you end up reading it 😉 )  I can’t wait for the next book!

Enough of my wittering, on with the Irreverence!

What would you be or want to be (or still are), if you weren’t an author?
Lawyer, probably. Still might end up becoming one!

Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
Staring out the window. Usually the more trouble I’m having with writing something the more time I spend watching the view instead. I know that things are going well when I don’t look up.

Describe your working environment right now (desk, sofa, bathroom, etc.)
On my bed with my laptop. I have a desk but I never sit at it.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
You know, I honestly can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I had a party but I’m not sure what the details were. I guess that means it was a good one?

Whose opinion matters most to you?
Mine. I get convinced to change it fairly often, though.

Do you get fully dressed to write?
I wear whatever I’ve got on at the time (which is often whatever I’m wearing to bed).

What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
Not writing! Whenever I go long enough without writing something I get motivated to do something new. Then after I’ve finished writing something I get sick of it and go off to do something that isn’t writing.

Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
I’m absolutely sure no-one’s ever going to make a film adaptation of my life. If they did, I’d be played by some actor I’d never heard of who looks younger and more glamorous than I do. The portrayal would have nothing at all in common with my life but that’s how the business works.

What is the weirdest comment you’ve had?
I still get the odd message asking if the setting from my previous books (the Ninja series) is real. Sometimes they won’t believe me when I say no. It’s my own fault, really.

What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
Hard to pick just one! I love getting feedback on my books and I read every email and comment I get (and answer if I have the time). I remember one lovely letter I got from a pair of children who’d written it and sent it off to my agents, where it eventually found its way to me. Knowing that someone liked my work that much always gives me a little lift for the rest of the day.

What do you value most?
“. . . courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful until it became risky . . .”

How do you deal with negative comments?
Read them with interest. I always like getting honest feedback, positive or negative, but it’s annoyingly rare to get really good negative feedback. When people love a book they show the best of themselves, but when they hate it they hardly ever give you the real reason.

It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After, Everyone Dies, Or…?
Happily Ever After unless I really hate the characters. I can think of a few movies where I’m rooting for the bad guys to kill the cast, but if I hate the cast that much it’s probably because they’re the writer’s pets and so completely immortal. Very unfair.

What do you do to relax?
Gaming! I don’t play computer games so often anymore but I still love tabletop RPGs.

Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
A very affectionate and attention-seeking Golden Retriever, who true to her name will retrieve anything left within three feet of the floor. If you’re lucky you can get it back before “retrieve” turns to “shred”.

What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
A little background noise, but not too much. Looking out the window onto a city street’s my favourite.

What is your favourite type of music?
Whatever I’ve got on my computer! My music collection’s so weird and has stuff from so many genres I’ve given up trying to put a label on it.

Do you have any phobias?
Wasps. Hate the little pests.

Do you find the time of year makes it easier or harder to write, are you inspired by spring or delayed by the summer heat for instance?
This is England – we don’t get summer heat, just summer-mild-warmness! Really hot or really cold weather does slow me down but I usually just end up writing at a different time. Deadlines don’t care about the season, after all . . .

Slippers, socks or barefoot?
As little as I can get away with! Barefoot in the summer, slippers in the cooler seasons, and I only wear socks if I gets cold enough to need them.

Huge thanks to Benedict Jacka for taking the time to answer our questions, and if you want to know more about the author, visit his WebsiteTwitter or Goodreads!

Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into Grete’s curious head. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!


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.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Benedict Jacka
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)