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Literature: Alex Verus

"My name is Alex Verus. I'm a mage, a diviner. In mage terms I'm unaligned, which means I'm not affiliated with the Council but don't count myself as a Dark mage either."

An urban fantasy series by Benedict Jacka.

Alex Verus runs a magic shop in London, and he's a diviner. His magic lets him see the probability of future events, predicting what'll happen by seeing the various possibilities ahead of him. It makes him very good at finding things out, but not so good when it comes to brute force. As a result, he tends to get approached by other mages, who are less good at finding things out but who possess an abundance of brute force which they're more than willing to use if they don't get their way.

Five books have been released in the series so far, with the author and publisher working to get the sixth out, probably sometime in 2015.

  • Fated (2012)
  • Cursed (2012)
  • Taken (2012)
  • Chosen (2013)
  • Hidden (2014)

There's also a series of articles about the world and setting called the Encyclopaedia Arcana which can be found on the author's website here.

This series provides examples of:

  • Badass Normal: Council security operatives in general but Garrick from the second book especially.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Briefly, thanks to the monkey's paw, Alex is robbed of his Divination. He gets better, though.
  • Charm Person: Enchanters and Enchantresses like Meredith as well as Mind mages like Crystal are good at this sort of thing, though Enchanters are much more subtle about it.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Crystal.
    • Also the Light council's modus operandi.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Alex exploits this heavily, which is the reason he can survive fights with things massively more powerful than he is.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Alex uses whatever is on-hand to fight, and states outright in the second book that killing people is often safer than trying to disable them. The one person he does spare in the assault on the keep nearly kills him later in the assault. A particularly impressive example happens early in the second book: He finds some mercenary wiring an AP mine, waits until the trip wire is set and throws a wrench into it while the mercenary is still right next to it.
  • Convection Schmonvection: According to the Encyclopaedia Arcana, trying to burn a Fire mage is like trying to drown a fish and it's specifically mentioned that some of them can walk through lava. It's generally averted for everyone else, though.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Luna's curse has the nice side effect of rendering her immune to casual misfortunes and making her generally lucky. It brings bad luck to her enemies, too. Justified in that the curse was created by taking a useful (if morally questionable) luck-draining spell and making it permanent.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex has his moments.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Starbreeze is the 'Made of Air' type. Most other elementals that appear are used as Guardians or, in Thirteen's case, as assassins.
  • Enemy Civil War: It's more or less stated that this is the reason Dark mages don't run everything. The protagonist points out in the first book that even though it might not feel that way, Dark mages are actually much more dangerous to each other than they are to everyone else.
  • First-Person Smartass: Alex.
  • Flash Step: Blink foxes are basically space-adepts that can use this spell.
  • Functional Magic: The series pretty much runs on this.
  • Giant Spider: Arachne. Oddly enough, she's nicer than most of the humans. She also makes dresses.
    Luna: Alex, she's a giant spider.
    Alex: I know.
    Luna: Alex, she's a giant spider.
  • Guile Hero: Alex uses knowledge and quick thinking to take on opponents who really ought to be way out of his weight class.
  • Happy Place: Anne has one built up in Elsewhere that she used during her apprenticeship. Note that a Happy Place in Elsewhere is a bit like a hammock over an active vulcano.
  • Healing Hands: The standard spell of Life mages. Unfortunately, Anne was once apprenticed to a Dark mage, so most people don't trust her to heal them, since Life mages can do the Touch of Death-thing as well. As it turns out, that distrust is well justified.
  • Irony: Hidden is the first book in the series in which Alex does not kill anyone, however indirectly. It is also the book in which he is accused of murder most often.
  • Lady in Red: not-Anne appears this way.
  • Light Is Not Good: Levistus, in particular, who is just as sociopathic as the Dark villains. Even among the rank-and-file Light mages, enthralling mundanes for entertainment appears to be socially acceptable.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Mages' powers seem to work on a consistent set of rules. One of the biggest ones is that mages can only use one type of magic. A fire mage can use fire magic and nothing else.
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: Of the 'no-one can use multiple schools at all' variety.
  • Pegasus: A diviner Alex goes to visit has one of these. He likes sugar lumps.
  • Order vs. Chaos: The conflict between Light and Dark is much more this than one between good and evil, because there are quite a few Lawful Evil people on the council and Dark mages are most definitely not Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They give out vague hints and prophecies. Shireen gave one such prophecy to Alex in Fated, Alex got such vague help during Cursed and Variam got one regarding Anne that had and still has him all kinds of worried.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're dead
  • Pocket Dimension: Only two novels so far did not involve one such place in their big showdown. Fated had the Fateweaver's tomb, Taken had the other side of Crystal's estate and Hidden had Sagash's shadow realm.
  • Red Shirt Army: Council security. The council has no illusions that they could take on a Dark mage and survive. They are only there as living shields for the mages and as early warning system that is more paranoid than a ward.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Fire mages are more or less immune to heat, Ice mages are more or less immune to cold, you can't drown a Water mage et cetera. Generally, most Required Secondary Powers are expected.
  • Shout-Out: One to The Dresden Files. In the first book Alex refers to Harry Dresden as 'a practicing wizard in Chicago'. Hidden also has one to House.
    Luna: Maybe it's Lupus.
    Variam It's never Lupus.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Appears to fall in the "Prophecies Are Predictions" category; Alex can only see the future in terms of probability, and he has trouble seeing past a decision that somebody has not already made. Of course, this only applies to human magic: The existence of the dragon prophecy might push the setting towards the "Fate" end.
  • The Social Darwinist: Dark mages believe that people only have a right to what they can take and what they can keep. They have no problem with slavery or killing people in their way. Alex was apprenticed to a dark mage and admits that, while he sees himself as a good guy, most of the people who oppose him wind up dead.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The fate of Griff.
    Griff, needless to say, was very dead. After being shredded, incinerated, and disintegrated all at once, what was left of his body could fit in a pencil case. Anyone planning to give him a burial would need a mop and a vacuum cleaner.
    • In general, battle magic runs on this. As Alex explains, 90% of a fight between mages is about building shields, as one solid blow is usually all it takes to kill the other guy.
    Alex: Woah! I didn't even know ice could do that to living flesh.
  • * Took a Level in Jerkass: Anne and Sonder starting with the Aftermath of Chosen. Anne's reaction is justified because it unpleasantly reminded her of her own Dark and Troubled Past. Sonder's reaction... not so much. Especially when Alex points out the hypocrisy of it by pointing out that Sonder apparently was fine with Alex killing people when it was Sonder's own life on the line.
    • To a lesser extent, Alex himself, starting with the middle of Chosen and apparently ending with the end of Hidden. His interactions with people who stood by his side for the last three books seems very abrasive. He got better, though. This is actually pretty justified, though, as the possibility of his Evil Mentor Richard Drakh being alive and well is wearing on his nerves.
  • Unequal Rites: Diviners like Alex seem to be looked down on, due to being physically weaker than other mages. They're really good at finding things out, though, which helps them avoid fights in the first place.
    • Mind you, this doesn't keep the very smart elemental mages from being at least a little bit afraid of Alex.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Diviners in general. They lack any sort of combat magic, including the blocking spells that elemental mages rely on. If a combat-trained mage attacks a diviner, the diviner usually ends up dead. Diviners are so dangerous because, with their powers, they can avoid being attacked altogether.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change: Luna essentially steals luck from those around her, causing misfortune to anyone who crosses her path in exchange for being immune to random accidents herself. The catch is that she can't turn it off.
  • You Bastard: In Hidden, Alex has an unconscious bad guy in front of him. He then, in case the reader was wondering why he did not simply kill the guy, gives several good arguments as to why killing him would have made things worse and ends with "point 3, what the hell is wrong with you? You seriously think I want to be responsible for more dead kids? Jesus!"