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Saturday, May 27, 2017

“Bound” By Benedict Jacka

by Terrance McArthur

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Bound (adj.): tied, compelled, leap, a border, forced.

Alex Verus is “Bound,” in the eighth book of Benedict Jacka’s British urban fantasy series. He is tied to Anne, the woman he wants to love, but instead, has gotten her into a horrible mess. They are compelled to work for the Dark Mages, while Light Mages keep trying to kill them (OK, some of the Dark Mages want to kill them, too). He makes a mental leap when he realizes that he’s been playing a short game, reacting to what happens to him, while the Dark Side is working from long-view plans. He breaches the border of his scruples when he does battle with an entity who is defending her home. He is forced to work for his evil mentor, or have all his friends killed.

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Alex is a Diviner Mage, able to see the alternate possibilities around him, and he usually wins by maneuvering his foes into a situation where something even more dangerous will remove his present danger, sort of like a fish steering a scuba-hunter into the path of a man-eating shark. Richard, his former Dark Master, assigns him to work for the Dark Mage representative on the Light Mage Council. Alex deals with the horrors and tedium of bureaucracy, which is why the book takes place over a year’s time, instead of the usual week or two, as in previous installments. It has a longer page count, too, but doesn’t feel unnecessarily padded, even with a spate of philosophical and ethical discussions. In fact, a major complaint in user reviews has been that it is too short.

Image source: Ace

Jacka has been twisting fantasy expectations for years with his brain-centered hero, building a magical society in England. Some of the Light Mages are more corrupt and devious than the Dark ones, who are at least honest about their aims. A giant spider weaves anti-magic armor. A masked mage blows away everything in his path. A magical being weaponizes plants. Portals open to other dimensions, customized by the owner. It’s a weird universe, out there.

Bound ends with a cliffhanging twist (don’t all these books?) that promises more trouble for Alex, but isn’t that what we want and expect? Things have to get worse. The stakes have to get higher. Relationships have to get more complicated. That’s why we keep coming back to read more.

To enter to win a copy of Bound, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “bound,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 3, 2017. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian with the Fresno County Public Library, and a published short story author.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

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