I don’t publicly advertise that I’m a mage, but I don’t exactly hide it either, and one of the odd things I’ve learnt over the years is just how much you can get away with if you’re blatant enough. Hide something behind smoke and mirrors and make people work to find it, and they’ll tear the place down looking for what’s there. Alex Verus is a diviner who can see probable futures—a talent that’s gotten him out of many a tough scrape. But this time, he may be in over his head. Alex was once apprenticed to a Dark mage, and in his service he did a lot of things he isn’t proud of. As rumors swirl that his old master is coming back, Alex comes face to face with his misdeeds in the form of a young adept whose only goal is to get revenge. Alex has changed his life for the better, but he’s afraid of what his friends—including his apprentice, Luna—will think of his past. But if they’re going to put themselves at risk, they need to know exactly what kind of man they’re fighting for...
Chosen by Benedict Jacka is the latest Alex Verus novel, and both stands up well to the previous books and sets the bar for future stories in the ‘verse. However, the ‘magician with a past’ trope has gotten a little tired lately, and a fresh perspective would be a nice change. On the upside, Alex Verus doesn’t spend much of his time angsting over the mistakes he’s made - which is good, because that never solved any problems.
And, for the record, Alex Verus, mage, seer, or diviner has a past in which he’s made his fair share of mistakes. Divining isn’t a showy ability, but it makes Alex good in a fight - he can see his foe’s next move coming, can find things he’s looking for, and of course, can look into the future.
There are Light Mages, Dark Mages, and adepts, with Alex having been nearly initiated as a Dark Mage when he was young, and which has now made him extremely unpopular with the Light Mages.
Unfortunately, as an apprentice Dark Mage, Alex did a number of unpleasant things, and in this book, he faces the consequences. A young adept is attempting to kill off all Dark Mages in order to liberate fellow adepts. As an adept, one is vulnerable to the malice of Dark Mages, the adept, Will, leads a group of other adepts on a mission that includes killing Alex, whose former Dark Mage Master killed his sister.
While Alex doesn’t want to kill this young adept, he isn’t willing to lay down his life, but is so unwilling to step up and fight Will that he nearly gets killed. Not wanting to involve anyone else in the fallout of his mistakes, or put anyone else in danger means he does this behind the backs of his friends, thus creating even more issues.
The story includes a fair amount of action sequences, as well as the moral quandary that Alex finds himself in: what is the cost of not only admitting to past mistakes, but not letting them define a person? Future books promise to deal with the consequences of this story, as well as its long-term effects on the characters and their world.