“Has anyone ever told you you’re a remarkably cynical person?” When Benedict Jacka’s character, Alex Verus, replies that he sees it as having developed by learning from experience, you know immediately that life for him is a rollercoaster ride of danger and precariously placed trust. If you haven’t read the first two installments of Verus’ adventures, Fated and Cursed, then I would highly recommend them, but Taken is in itself a brilliant standalone novel. There are hints at the previous two plots but they are not obtrusively referred to and are mainly there only as an explanation of the tensions developing. The characters in Taken get woven into the plot skilfully, and if you know the previous books, then you know anything can happen and any one of the characters can make you want you to turn the next page. Benedict Jacka has only improved as a writer, and his third instalment certainly does not disappoint.
The plot centres around the White Stone Tournament set in Fountain Reach, a sprawling mansion that confuses those that enter with magical barriers so powerful that even Alex Verus cannot see what will happen next. For a diviner – a mage able to see the future – this is rather disconcerting, especially as he has to dodge old enemies and identify the new ones. Meanwhile, he’s training his apprentice, Luna, to duel in the competition, while also investigating the disappearance of several other apprentices, all of whom have vanished without a trace. The story is wound beautifully, starting slow and building in tension and ferocity. The atmosphere is foreboding; Verus feels as if the empty corridors themselves are watching him alongside everyone else who hopes he has an answer to solve all the problems that he and his assorted companions face. He doesn’t though; he simply dodges shotguns and dangerous magic, and hopes to not stumble on too many unconventional murders. Well he can hope, this is the life of Alex Verus, after all. It doesn’t discourage him though. He wants answers as much as anyone else, and while he is left unsure of who he can trust as he runs head on though the twists and turns of Jacka’s plot, he doesn’t stop until the truth has been destroyed.
If you are looking for escapism, action adventure and grim fantasy that you cannot put down until you reach the very last page, then look no further than Benedict Jacka’s Taken.
Taken is published by Orbit, 2012. ISBN: 978-0356500263