Lois Bujold's Reviews > Fated

Fated by Benedict Jacka
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really liked it
Recommended for: urban fantasy fans

I picked this up because it kept getting cross-recommendations with Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. It has some tropes in common: contemporary London with secret magic, first person narrator. I think it could have something of the same relationship for me as Krentz's books do for Crusie's, methadone while waiting for a slower and more sophisticated writer. (I suspect Jacka is somewhat younger than Aaronovitch.) I'd probably have given this 3 stars, except a minor spear-carrier named "Barrayar" flitted across the page at one point, which amused me.

Jacka also starts with his narrator/protagonist already fairly high-powered and knowledgeable, which means he has to catch the reader up on much more backfill than Aaronovitch's Peter Grant, who, along with the reader, begins at the beginning and learns going forward. The naive character, whether main or not, who needs everything explained is an invaluable addition to many kinds of narratives, I must say. Jacka has a rather charming secondary character, Luna, who serves some of this function.

Alex Verus runs a magic shop (another excellent old trope that gives excuse for several kinds of fun) in London, partly as cover for his other activities. Alex's particular talent is as a seer, with an interestingly limited ability to see into the future. This is not always as much help as could be hoped, and so thereby hangs the tale. Since a lot of other powerful and not necessarily nice magical people would like to make use of this talent on behalf of their own agendas, bringing the plot to him, Alex frequently gets to be hero and maguffin in one. Luna, too, has unusual powers with decided downsides requiring clever work-arounds.

The magical (and other) world-building feels a trifle generic in this first novel of the series, and I'm not entirely sure why, since there are plenty of inventive details. I rather liked the concept of the sociopathic mages. It may all grow more complex as the series wends on, which I am inclined to give it a chance to do.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 1, 2014 – Finished Reading
April 18, 2014 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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message 1: by Anna (new)

Anna Ooh, this sounds interesting, and I might give it a chance. I'm so longing for the next Rivers if London book and this might scratch that itch even if it doesn't end up being a favorite.

Text Addict I agree; I like Jacka's books quite a lot, but Aaranovitch's are definitely better. More complex and layered, I think, yet without sacrificing fast-moving plot. The kind of work that makes me go, "How did he *do* that?"

Carol Cooper I picked this up for the same reason Lois did - it kept getting referred to in relation to the 'Rivers of London' series. I'm afraid I gave up after a few chapters - it actually felt more like Harry Dresden transplanted to London, rather than like Ben Aaronovitch, and I don't think it compares well with either. I decided to bail when they got into the backstory with the conflicts within the mages' council, and the fact that the protagonist was a bit of a rebel or outcast. Shades of Dresden. I wanted to like the series, but......

Text Addict Carol wrote: "... it actually felt more like Harry Dresden transplanted to London, rather than like Ben Aaronovitch, ..."

That's funny, because I've only read one Dresden novel and didn't like it much. Have you tried Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series?

And have we exhausted the list of urban fantasies with male protagonists yet?

message 5: by Carol (last edited Apr 19, 2014 07:46AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Carol Cooper If you've only read the first Dresden novel then I'd encourage you to persevere - it was his first novel and I think he really hits his stride by the third or fourth book. It's the Dresden series that got me into urban fantasy in the first place, and I have not so far found another series as good.

I seriously doubt we've scratched the surface of urban fantasies with male protagonists - but there seem to be far more with female ones and I'm underwhelmed by most of those too. There seem to be two or three really good ones and the rest seem to be formulaic or imitative.

I haven't heard of the Iron Druid series but will go look for it - thanks.

Leticia The Iron Druid is another one of those series in which the character is all powerful from the start. For a more nuanced male protagonist which is learning about his powers, try Mike Carey's Felix Castor series.
And for great female protagonists, go for Seanan McGuire's October Day or InCryptid series.

Carol Cooper I agree about the Felix Castor series - it's good. I think you hit the nail on the head about characters who are all-powerful from the start. I think that's one of the things I like about the Dresden series - the character grows and develops - much more interesting.

Yes, I like Seanan McGuire's October Day series (although I realise now that at some point I put down the first InCryptid book and drifted off to read other things, leaving it half read. I wonder where it is....). I also like Patricia Briggs's work - not just the obvious Mercy Thompson ones but also her earlier stuff - she's a very good storyteller.

Aaron Nagy Huh, I'll have to try out October Daye, I'm in the mood for another Fae magic book.

As far as good urban fantasy http://pactwebserial.wordpress.com/
is really good. It's very much a "and then things got worse" kind of story where the MC never gets a chance to stop and rest.

Elizabeth Good comments, good comparison. I actually read "Fated", enjoyed it well enough, and then totally forgot about the series - while I love Aaronovitch's books, think about them, and reread them. Much higher pleasure factor. But it's worth remembering that I have Alex Verus to return to while I wait for the next Aaronovitch book.

Christianne Swearson Patricia Brigg's books are also wonderful modern day fantasy with interesting Native American legends and -I think - very compelling characters and absorbing plots. She's a writer like Jim Butcher who sucks me in and I read them all!

Vendela You might really like Kate Griffin - much closer to Aaronovitch in tone and sophistication.

message 12: by Andy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Andy I don't know about this book. I've read and mostly enjoyed Rivers of London and the Dresden books - this promised more of the same. But the main character keeps talking down to his female sidekick, ends up treating her roughly, expects her to listen & do everything he says, and kinda has a weird crush thing going on with her - and she's his employee more than anything else. Then there's this torture stuff - never described, but generally in the background - and then the evil mages are just evil, "might makes right" cutouts.

The main character's magic is almost interesting - it will be much better described a book or two down the line.

As much as this book tries to be sophisticated, it just isn't. But if you like Joe Abercrombie's 'no one is really good, and most people are bad or idiotic' approach, this might appeal to you. It's definitely in that GoT camp when it comes to characterization.

message 13: by Jade (new)

Jade Read Dresden Files

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