Fated (An Alex Verus Novel), by Benedict Jacka

This is the first of what has become eight books featuring a mage named Alex Verus. Alex runs a small magic shop in London, with an ongoing arrangement with a nearby shop dealing in stage magic to redirect those who walk into the store by accident. Alex sells herbs, powders, and has a collection of magical items, some for sale and some hidden upstairs.

In this magical world mages have specialized skills. Alex is able to see an outline of the future so that he can scan until he see a successful future, then trace it back to see what action needs to be taken for that successful future to become reality. Never really accepted by the ruling Council, Alex is surprised when he is asked to be part of a team investigating a magical artifact, until he learns that all the mages sharing his skills have slipped out of town so they don’t have to take part themselves.

In a world that has had an uneasy truce between light and dark practitioners, Alex finds himself caught between both forces in a race to see which can take control of the artifact that could help them wield ultimate control. And only Alex realizes that his closest friend may have found the key to unlock that power.

Verus is an interesting character. He was apprenticed to a dark mage and ended up serving as a slave. He was able to make a rare escape but has the horror of that period in his life close at all times. Though he’s far from the most powerful or talented mage, he does have some unique skills and a dedication to doing the right thing. That makes walking a narrow path between the two competing forces particularly challenging. But his ability to see the outcome of various actions helps him survive some truly nasty people.

It’s one of those books you’d have to rate as “a great read if you’re into that kind of thing.” Books on magic and fantasy are a select taste and not for everyone, but the book is fun with creative challenges for the characters, a full range of good and bad players, and a developing love interest for Alex. There’s even a gigantic spider. Alex is the narrator and has a fun tongue-in-cheek attitude about most of the events. I won’t be waiting at the store for the next arrival but I can see putting more into my reading list as a nice diversion.