Veiled – Benedict Jacka

The Alex Verus series continues, because the world needs more urban fantasy London. This is book… seven? I don’t even actually know anymore (ok, I checked, it’s the sixth book, but there are two more I haven’t read, I think). I’m not saying I’m not enjoying them, as I really really am… I just… how long is this going to go on for? I suppose the Dresden books are well into double figures now, so maybe I should plan to be reading these for a good long while yet. What a terrible, terrible shame…

For the most part, Veiled continues much in the same way as the rest of the series. Good plot, good characters, great pacing, with just the right balance between length and action-packed. The one major difference between it and all the previous books is how Jacka deals with politics.

Mage politics in the series has always been around. You can’t do books about Light and Dark magic without it coming into it slightly, unless it’s just going to be out and out fighting. Which isn’t really suitable to urban fantasy, I don’t think. But up until now, it’s always been in the periphery. It’s caused stuff to happen – even, arguably, been the cause of most of the action – but has never been, in and of itself, the stuff of the plots. Up until now. I get the sense this is going to be a major turning point in the series and that from now on this is going to be the norm, as it has kickstarted a couple of the vague subplots that have been lurking in the background for a while, and that we’re going to be seeing a great deal more politicking from now on. I certainly hope so. Because while it was all fairly well done and interesting, there just wasn’t enough of it.

This is the first book of the series where we’ve been really introduced to the factions involved in the Light Council, and I was really gratified to see that Jacka has his magical politics be a bit more complex than just baddies and goodies, or even baddies, goodies and the third one so as to look a bit complicated. Because of the series’ perspective we tend to focus on the Light side. And so what we get in this book is a glimpse into the… I think it was six? something like that… factions of the Light side. There are two different axes of variation that we can see, and different interpretations of them, and differing influence of the factions involved on other areas of mage life. Basically, he’s managed to make it actually realistic. It’s great.

That said, we don’t go into all that much detail. Jacka’s books aren’t long, and they’ve not so far been keen on extended sections of exposition when there’s plot and action to be doing. So while there’s a fair bit of excellence and a whole lot of promise, there’s still more to be seen. I actually think I’d like to see longer books here. What he does is great – he manages to pace it all beautifully and create a really neat plot that never gets slow or dull, and part of that is keeping it short. But I think he’s doing what he’s doing sufficiently well that it could stand to be extended and padded out with a little more exposition, because there’s a lot of his magical world we just haven’t seen. And I can’t be the only one wanting to get some explanations for some of it, without having to wait for him to write a book about each aspect.

I think this might be my favourite in the series so far, and I’ll be reading the next one pretty promptly to see if the trend continues. But Jacka seems to be pretty damn consistent with these, so I’ve not got any major worries on that score.

Next, back to more Iain M. Banks.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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