PUBLISHER: Orbit (UK) | Ace (US)
RELEASE DATE: June 2012 (UK) | May 2012 (US)
FORMAT: Paperback, 304 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex has been keeping his head down. But now he’s discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures – destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda.
Hired to investigate, Alex realizes that not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power… (Goodreads)
CURSED by Benedict Jacka takes place a few months after the events of Fated, continuing the tale of shop owner Alex Verus, a mage with the power to see probable futures.
This second book in the series sees Alex trying to continue his life as before, simply running his shop day-to-day and training his apprentice, Luna, with the help of giant spider Arachne. Of course, this peace can’t last for long, as trouble finds both Luna and Alex.
Alex is affiliated with neither the Light mages nor the Dark mages, and the beginning of the book sees him working a hired mission to recover a barghest, a mythical dog-like creature which is believed to have been terrorizing the locals. Alex leads the team to it with no trouble, but it’s already dead when the find it which a suspicious cause of death – all the magic has been sucked out of it. This sparks our protagonist’s suspicion, as trying to absorb another mage’s magic can send you insane or kill you, but has it ever been tried on a magical beast before?
Mysterious newcomer, Martin, could also pose a threat, as he seems overly keen to learn about magic and magical artifacts, taking a particular interest in Luna. After a visit to Alex’s shop, where he asks after rare items, he walks away with a monkey’s paw, a very powerful item. Despite Alex’s warnings of the dangers of using it, Martin ignores him, taking Luna along with him. The monkey’s paw is an item that can grant five wishes, but no-one has ever survived using it to tell the tale. Does Martin really have Luna’s best interests at heart, or is Alex right not to trust him?
With Luna out of the picture for a while it falls to Alex to investigate the magical harvesting incidents alone. That is, until the attractive Meredith brings an assassination attempt to Alex’s door, forcing him to step in and save her. She is a temptress, with magic enabling her to persuade and seduce people, leaving Alex unsure whether his choices are his own or down to Meredith’s influence.
Several assassination attempts later and Alex and Luna become further involved in the mysteries surrounding the dead barghest, with their spider friend Arachne in potential danger from magic draining. Calling on the help of their friend Sonder from the first book, will Alex be able to solve the mystery this time?
Again with this series it took me a while to get into the book, and I still feel that it is missing some kind of spark to get me hooked. I was hoping for more of an insight into Alex’s past, as again his past with the Dark mage is hinted at but nothing more is revealed. I did like the fact that more of his Diviner gift was explored, and we did get to see more of a sensitive side to him.
“And when it came right down to it, I hate turning someone away who’s come to me for help. It’s not that I’m especially selfless or anything, but I know what it’s like to be alone and hunted and afraid.”
We also saw more to Luna’s character, and her past was further hinted at in this novel, but like Alex’s it still hasn’t been explored. I get the feeling that both of their pasts are intriguing stories, and I am a little frustrated at having to wait until later in the series to find out what it is. However, as for this novel, there are a lot of action scenes with guns and fighting, and a lot of scenes are reminiscent of an action film. I enjoyed it more than Fated, but I’m still waiting for this series to have a spark to really draw me in.
I enjoyed CURSED more than Fated, and really feel that Alex and Luna grew as characters in this book, with their bond becoming stronger. I also felt that the plot was better, with more of a direct focus on a particular enemy rather than holding as much mystery as the previous book. However, I was disappointed at that there was no further exploration of Alex’s past, as I still get the feeling there is an interesting tale waiting to be told!
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