I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This urban fantasy is a paperback edition that was published by Ace Books on April 4, 2017 and has 342 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Fated, Cursed, Taken, Chosen, Hidden, Veiled, Burned
Eighth in the Alex Verus urban fantasy series based in London and revolving around a mage who wants to be left alone.
Jesus. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Jacka yanks us in from the first page with Alex’s inner thoughts hook that combines with an emotional hook…Drakh is such a horrible man. He’s so horrible that he could be a Light mage. Yep, that’s right. Y’all think the Light is the side of good? Nope, it’s merely the side of behind-the-scene machinations, vicious power struggles, and back-stabbing politics. As Alex notes, at least you always know where you stand with a Dark mage.
While I loved how Alex handled that ill-mannered Jarnaff, it’s also one of the reasons Alex has so few friends on the Council. Part of that “had-I-known” plot device…yeah, but I doubt it would have changed Alex’s behavior. Of course, few of those Light mages appear capable of being actual friends. And, yes, I suspect that taunting Alex indulges in doesn’t help either. We’ll have to hope his going after Rachel can help, as she does seem to need it pointed out to her — and they are good points.
I also loved Arachne’s advice to Alex, and she makes an excellent point — an epiphany moment for Alex that gets further enlightenment later on.
We do get insight into how the Council operates, mostly through Alex’s perspective with that first-person protagonist point-of-view. Makes ya wonder if this is how Congress acts. What’s worse is all the overt corruption with those people! The crap they do to people. Crap that’s supposedly against the rules, and yet they get away with it. The message it sends to anyone who isn’t on the Council isn’t good, and I think Alex is right, that this is what will bring them down. You know it’s bad when the Dark side is lookin’ good…!
It’s but one example of Jacka’s brilliant use of incluing — a plot device he uses throughout the stories to bring us into Alex’s world.
There is an odd balance of backstory and mere hints of past events — it definitely helps to have read the previous seven stories.
That bit of analepsis in Richard’s speech is a bit of a shocker, especially to Alex’s ego, lol.
It’s a game of cat-and-mouse, with Alex the mouse — and Jacka leaves us hanging with the foreboding cliffhanger of a surprising plot twist at the end.
It’s been fourteen years since Alex was last in Richard Drakh’s house. And being back here is too soon to Alex’s mind.
Worse, Alex is now being coerced from two different mages to help Deleo, if he wants to live. Still, it’s not as bad as the treatment he and Anne are getting from the Keepers. Or the Council.
Alex Verus, a diviner who sees the probabilities of action in the future, used to have a cozy magical shop until it was destroyed. Now he’s assigned as a liaison for Morden with the Keepers. Anne Walker is a Life mage, capable of healing or killing. She’s been assigned to the medical corps. Variam “Vari”, a fire mage, is apprenticed with Landis and based in Scotland. Luna Mancuso had been Alex’s apprentice who graduated from her journeyman status. Only now she’s depressed and hiding out. Arachne is a magical creature, a gigantic spider with a clothing design business, with no Council protection; she’s also Alex’s best and oldest friend. Hermes is the blink-fox who came through in Hidden, 5.
The Hollow is…
…a shadow realm created by Karyos, a hamadryad who’s gone nuts. It would make an excellent safe base.
Morden, one of the top ten Dark mages and Richard’s oldest ally, is now a councilor on the Light Council, and in return for staying their execution, is forcing Alex and Anne to work for Richard. Onyx, a violent sociopath with poor impulse control, is his Chosen, a battle mage who uses force magic.
Rachel is known as Deleo, disintegration a specialty. She’s now reporting to Morden, even though she’s supposed to be Richard’s Chosen. Cinder is her partner, a Fire mage, who has bonded Kyle.
The average-looking Richard Drakh is a Dark mage with dark plans who draws all attention when he speaks. Alex had been his apprentice fourteen years before. The Archon negotiates and runs errands for Richard. Vihaela was Marannis‘ second-in-command (he owned the White Rose). She’s a really nasty, torture-loving bitch who is a death/life hybrid mage, using it for very dark purposes. Luke is one of her abused children. God, the scene she describes about the child who tried to escape…
Chalice is a Dark mage who has been teaching Luna how to deal with her curse. Blackout is a Dark mage who wanted the Hollow. Lord Jagadev, a quite influential rakshasa, had been Anne’s and Vari’s previous master. Sagash had been Anne’s first master.
The Light Council is…
…the ruling body for Light mages and is divided into the Senior and Junior Councils. The War Rooms are the nerve centre of the Council and the heart of Light power in Britain. The Vault is a high security location. Council members include the fickle Undaaris with Lyle as his personal aide; Vaal Levistus (will do anything to see Alex dead) whose principal agent, Barrayar, was responsible for blowing up Luna’s apartment; Nirvathis is Levistus’ stooge; Sal Sarque (also the head of the Crusaders) with that jerk Jarnaff as his aide; Alma‘s aide is Julia; Belthas; Bahamus; and, Druss. Other aides include Ictis and Tarantis. Mage Hieronymous is in charge of the medical corps.
The Keepers of the Flame are…
…made up of three Orders: The Order of the Star, an everyday policing force for the Council; the Order of the Cloak who preserve the magical world’s secrecy; and, the Order of the Shield who are a military reserve of battle mages.
Alex is assigned to the Order of the Star where Captain Rain is Caldera’s boss; he had liked Alex. Caldera is a Keeper with Earth power and hates Alex ever since Burned, 7. Coatl is her new partner, a cheerful mind mage who has liked Alex in the past. Lightbringer and Zilean are Keeper auxiliaries who also work for the Crusaders’ black ops as assassins going after Alex. And they report to Jarnaff. Reyes is a heat mage with a bad rep. Maraxus is a Fire mage.
Alex believes Talisid is part of the Order of the Cloak; he has been hiring Alex as a spy.
David Sonder is a Time mage, who likes Luna, who rejected him. Suminai is the mage the Isolationists want appointed ambassador to Shanghai. Lucian is an adept who had wandered into Alex’s shop some time ago. Daniel Goldman has become a symbol of the oppressive Council.
The Nightstalkers were…
…a group of adept vigilantes looking for vengeance against Dark mages in Chosen, 4. Kyle is a weapons and explosive expert. Lee is a seeker adept.
Damas are constructs and nearly mindless with no long-term memory. Articles of power may be imbued (they do what they want) or focuses. Mages are the top of the heap; adepts are less powerful and essentially ignored. A grey keeps the type of magic they can do hidden. Of the jinn who use true wish magic, the marid is the strongest followed by the ifrit, the shaitan, the jinn, and the jann who are the weakest.
Elsewhere is an alternate plane one can connect to, if they’re dreaming. A dreamstone enables one to connect to it while awake. A shadow realm is formed by taking a reflection of a location in the world. Deep shadow realms are a reflection of another shadow realm and more weird and fluid. A regeneration seed is a rare item needed by a hamadryad whose tree has died.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a gorgeous grayed-down turquoise in a swirl of tracks sweeping through the city skyline. The same blue is used in the title at the top of the cover against a ragged black band while the author’s name is in white at the bottom.
The title is Alex and Anne’s state, for they’re Bound to a Dark mage, to keep themselves and their friends alive.