carol. 's Reviews > Fated

Fated by Benedict Jacka
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bookshelves: urban-fantasy, supernatural-mystery, male-lead
Recommended for: Dresden fans between books


One of these things is not like the other:
descriptiondescriptiondescription

I'm just kidding. They're all totally alike.

It isn't long before you notice the first Dresden homage in Jacka's first adult UF book. Of course, my edition gives it away with the cover, where a quote from Jim Butcher plays a prominent role on the jacket. I can only assume this was so someone wouldn't sue Jacka for copyright violations on Butcher's behalf. Once you start reading, the parallels appear quickly, beginning with his protagonist, Alex Verus, noting there's a wizard in Chicago rumored to advertise in the phone book. I started to wonder, did this get its start as fan fiction? It clearly owes a great deal to Dresden, from the characters to the themes to various plot points. Don't believe me? You really need to read Carly's review which analyzes the similarities. Well, whatever--I can overlook it, right? I don't hate Harry Dresden. I like the modern UF detective noir, despite being somewhat formulaic in plot, because I enjoy discovering what the author does with a magic system, characters, setting, and tension. Unfortunately in this case, Jacka needs to do a lot more, both to individuate himself and to create a stellar series.

I enjoy a well-plotted book, however, I don't usually spend a great deal of time analyzing it, no matter what my review trolls say about 'nitpicking.' So believe me when I say that I noticed the prevalence of deus ex machina solutions, they're notable. Almost every scrape he got into was solved by the appearance of some untold facet of his skill (cheap, but acceptable (view spoiler)), a special magic device (view spoiler), or special magical friend (view spoiler).

The writing was in need of a beta-reader to smooth out the transition. World-building information tended given in info-dumps, which didn't particularly trouble me, but seems to be a hallmark of a craft-young fantasy/sci-fi writer. So we'd run into a situation, Jacka would tell the reader all about Harry's skill/history, and then Harry would use said skill to manipulate the situation. It was intrusive enough to be noticeable, but presumably will decrease in subsequent books as the investment in world-building pays off.

The underlying magical concept of a 'diviner' (not to be confused with that other awful book I just read) is an interesting one, and not one that I've yet encountered in UF. Harry is a type of mage who as the ability to read possible futures so I enjoyed learning how the author envisioned the skill working and its everyday implications. I do have the feeling that there is a fault line in the fundamentals of the magic system, but I'll have to check in after I take a statistics class. For instance, at one point, Harry talks about how he isn't able to predict the roll of a dice. Hm, okay, but he can predict whether or not someone arrives at his house on time? Yes, I know, it's magic. But the rule of UF is that a magic system should have an underlying theory. So it seems a six-sided roll would have significantly less variables than someone arriving at a destination. I'm not entirely sure this one works, but I enjoyed trying to figure out the ramifications along with Jacka.

There is the requisite UF side-kick, a woman would would like to learn more about Harry's world and who struggles with a curse of her own. Because of her curse, she is placed in the "unobtainable love interest" position. Both Harry and Jacka are conflicted about her role; in one section, she's a depressed, nearly suicidal person; in another she's full of determination and in yet another, she is frightened and helpless. It was hard to get a sense of her or her history perhaps because, as Harry eventually realizes, he doesn't know that much about her. She plays useful plot functions of sidekick, potential love interest, and emotional cue for reader. As a female reader, I was hardly surprised, but it is disappointing that so few men write a woman I want to be. Readers will want to be Harry, not Luna. By the end, I did see some potential develop (view spoiler) so I'm hopeful Jacka can manage an empowerment plot for her in the next book. Sometimes it's that kind of lure that keeps me reading.

Ultimately, I think what kept me engaged was the magic system and the action. On the negative side, I was uncomfortable with the strong similarities with Butcher's work; it made me feel a little like I was watching a pirated copy of a movie or reading fan fiction, causing troubling feelings of participating in author disenfranchisement. On positive, I think I enjoyed it more than the first couple Dresden books where his chauvinism annoyed me right out of the story. It's likely I'll catch the next one or two and see if Jacka can take this someplace more interesting.

Two and three quarter stars.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
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Reading Progress

April 10, 2012 – Shelved
May 4, 2013 – Shelved as: urban-fantasy
May 14, 2013 – Started Reading
May 15, 2013 – Finished Reading
May 18, 2013 – Shelved as: supernatural-mystery
May 18, 2013 – Shelved as: male-lead

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Carly (last edited May 16, 2013 09:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carly And some of these things are kind of the same.
Oh no, now that's stuck in my head...

The information about the main character, Harry, was given in info-dumps, which didn't particularly trouble me, but seems to be a hallmark of a young (in their craft) fantasy/sci-fi writer. So we'd run into a situation, Jacka would tell the reader all about Harry's skill, and then Harry would use said skill to manipulate the situation.

...you do know his name isn't actually Harry, right? It follows the whole mundane-first-name+significant-proper-noun-last-name, but he isn't actually a properly genetically-engineered Dresden clone--I think Alex is shorter than Harry.


carol. Carly wrote: "...you do know his name isn't actually Harry, right? It follows the whole mundane-first-name+significant-proper-noun-last-name, but he isn't actually a properly genetically-engineered Dresden clone--I think Alex is shorter than Harry.
."


I think I'm trying to be a smart-ass. Let me know if it didn't work. ;)


Mimi Carol wrote: "I think I'm trying to be a smart-ass. Let me know if it didn't work. ;)"

It worked. Half-way through your review, I was convinced the lead's name was Harry, not Alex.


Carly Carol wrote: I think I'm trying to be a smart-ass. Let me know if it didn't work. ;) ..."

Whoops. It took a while, but I eventually picked up on that. (My comment was during the "Under Construction" phase of the review :/ )

As a female reader, I was hardly surprised, but it is disappointing that so few men write a woman I want to be. Readers will want to be Harry, not Luna.
Ooh, excellent point.


carol. Glad it made sense eventually. My reviews are often started, paused and revised. This craziness comes with effort.


message 6: by Von (new) - rated it 5 stars

Von too much time on your hands, worth a read or not? simples


carol. Ross, I'm confused? Are you telling me I have too much time on my hands?


message 8: by Von (new) - rated it 5 stars

Von based on the nitpicking in your review :yes..Also the parallels between Dresden and fated are nothing more than genre based, your review is very misleading and quite unfair to the author.:)


carol. Ross, it's not "nitpicking" when one is talking about plot and characterization. Those are pretty big issues, and 'nitpicking' refers to something barely seen. Dictionaries are wonderful things.

Actually, my review isn't misleading at all. Check into other reviews and notice how many draw the Harry parallels--I'm hardly the first. Believe it or not, it is possible to write stories about "modern wizards" and not copy Harry Dresden, so you can't blame Jacka's faults on the genre. (Although, I suppose, you can blame him for the attempt to cash in on the genre). You just need to read more of them to know that.

I actually try to write thoughtful reviews, punctuation included gratis, as a way of remembering my experience of a book. You can read however you like, but I suggest the judicious application of critical thinking skills might broaden your reading experience--as well as your ability to be understood by others.

As an aside, I'd suggest concentrating on your punctuation skills.


Martine No one can sue for anything on someone else's behalf except their lawyer. And if the only thing you can tell me is wether or not its like the Dreseden Files, don't bother reviewing other books.


Martine Thats so funny, as a woman Buffy like characters, ( I call then Buffy Sues) which is pretty much all female characters that can kick butt despite being well…female, tend to leave me disappointed. If you have a woman character that relies on physical prowess, it should be made clear that she can not win a straight fight with men. Women even have slower reflexes, so a gun shouldn't totally help the situation, and if she looses her weapon, forget it. That doesn't mean a woman is totally helpless, but she can't simply beat up an able bodied man. Not often, anyhow. So she needs to rely on brains, or something else entirely. I would rather be Luna then Kate Daniels.


carol. Martine wrote: "No one can sue for anything on someone else's behalf except their lawyer. And if the only thing you can tell me is wether or not its like the Dreseden Files, don't bother reviewing other books."

Ah, Martine. Thanks for educating me about the legal system on a book review site based on a facetious comment. Because of course Jim Butcher is going to read my review and take my advice.

I happened to mention much more than "wether (sic) or not its like the Dresden Files," but if you didn't notice that, I suppose it's because you got hung up on the concept of suing and didn't continue reading. It's a pertinent comment because of the enormous number similarities and because Butcher blurbs the book; comparisons are inevitable.

BTW, since we're being precise, it's "whether," not "wether," "that's," not "thats."


Carly Whoa. It seems to be the week for Poe's Law.
And here I was thinking you were planning a class-action suit for deja-vu-related psychological trauma.


carol. You might have something there, Carly. I like that idea... maybe class action against Hollywood for bad movie adaptations ruining our favorite books? You might be on to something here.

Yeah, well, Goodreads. I never get these comments elsewhere.


message 15: by Mimi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mimi Looks like Martine joined GR just to come here to give you a piece of her mind... A bit vindictive, but to each their own.

Maybe take this class action suit idea to kickstarter? I'm sure you'll have tons of people who'd like to help you get started, myself included.


message 16: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Carly wrote: "Whoa. It seems to be the week for Poe's Law.
And here I was thinking you were planning a class-action suit for deja-vu-related psychological trauma."


I'm going to write an alternate history in which Poe's Law has something to do with Edgar A.


carol. Be still my beating heart!


message 18: by Miriam (new)

Miriam First must reread all of Poe. For authenticity.


carol. Nevermore! There are some things too creepy for me to re-experience. I once went on a Poe binge (I hadn't read much of him at that point) and found it quite disquieting.


Carly Maybe he already fell prey to it... maybe his stories were intended as satiric comedy but no-one actually *got* him.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man who uses "tintinnabulation" in a poem must be in want of a laugh.

"Keeping time, time, time \ In a sort of Runic rhyme \ To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells \ From the bells, bells, bells, bells..."


carol. Or he was pushing a deadline.


message 22: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Carly wrote: "Maybe he already fell prey to it... maybe his stories were intended as satiric comedy but no-one actually *got* him.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man who uses "tintinnabulation" in a poem must be in want of a laugh."


I have sometimes wondered if Poe were laughing in his sleeve.


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