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Forged (An Alex Verus Novel Book 11) Kindle Edition
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To protect his friends, Mage Alex Verus has had to change--and embrace his dark side. But the life mage Anne has changed too, and made a bond with a dangerous power. She's going after everyone she's got a grudge against--and it's a long list.
In the meantime, Alex has to deal with his arch-enemy, Levistus. The Council's death squads are hunting Alex as well as Anne, and the only way for Alex to stop them is to end his long war with Levistus and the Council, by whatever means necessary. It will take everything Alex has to stay a step ahead of the Council and stop Anne from letting the world burn.
Praise for the Alex Verus novels
"Benedict Jacka writes a deft thrill ride of an urban fantasy--a stay-up-all-night read."--#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs
"Books this good remind me why I got into the storytelling business in the first place."-- #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher
"Benedict Jacka is a master storyteller."--Fantasy-Faction
"Fans of Jim Butcher and Ben Aaronovitch absolutely should not miss this deeply intelligent, morally complex, and action-packed series."--Publishers Weekly
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The mountain had no name. It was deep in the Himalayas, overshadowed by a ridge on one side and a peak on the other, with the remains of an ancient Sherpa village on its lower slopes. The ground was dry-it was late August and I was below the snow line-but the wind whistling down from the white-capped peaks carried a cold that bit through my clothes and numbed my ears and nose. The sky was a clear blue, fading to a lighter shade near the horizon, with lines of puffy clouds floating between the mountains, snowy peaks shining bright in the sun. Nothing grew but scrubby grass and brush, and not a single bird flew in the sky. There was a beauty to the landscape, but it was bleak and pitiless, indifferent to life.
As I climbed, my attention was split three ways. The first part was focused on my footing and keeping my balance on the shifting stones. The second part was focused on the three men lying in wait in the rocks above. The third and largest part was occupied with the question of what else I would find. A little over twenty-five minutes ago, I'd learned that a certain person whose movements I was very interested in had travelled here. Unfortunately, while twenty-five minutes is a pretty fast response to an alert on the other side of the world, it was also more than long enough for that person to kill everyone on this mountain many times over. There was a very good chance I was already too late.
On the plus side, the people above seemed interested in me, judging by the fact that one had a rifle trained on my chest, so at least I wouldn't have to chase them down.
To a normal person my position would be a death trap. The mountain was bare, with the rocks providing only intermittent cover. I was well within rifle range, and the men above would have plenty of time to shoot me if I tried to run. If I tried to talk, they'd capture me, which would lead to me being interrogated, shot, or interrogated and then shot. That just left fighting. The three men had an assault rifle and a pair of submachine guns, while I had a pistol holstered in the small of my back. Bad odds.
To a diviner, the position was better, though still dangerous. I could use some combination of cover and misdirection to split them up, and then pick off the isolated man. From there, I could use a condenser on the remaining two to block their vision and set up a surprise attack. I'd need them to make mistakes, but not many people have experience in fighting diviners, and if I was careful and quick I could eliminate all three without exposing myself to fire.
I'm not a normal person, and I'm not just a diviner anymore. I didn't go looking for cover. Instead I climbed straight up the slope.
They let me get very close. By the time the first man stepped out with weapon levelled and shouted, "Ting!" at me, I was right in the middle of them.
I stopped and raised my hands. The man ahead was Chinese, short and compact, dressed in dark body armour with a submachine gun of a type I didn't recognise. He gave me an order.
"I need to talk to your boss," I said, keeping my hands raised.
The man repeated his order, with a forceful gesture.
From looking through the futures, it was pretty clear that this guy didn't speak enough English for us to hold a conversation. The second man was behind me, and the third was off to the right, covering me with his rifle. They were being cautious.
"I am not kneeling down for you to search me," I told him. "I have business with Lord Jagadev. Please let me pass."
The man called something to the man behind. I could imagine what I looked like to the Chinese soldier. A Westerner, tall and gaunt, wearing armour of an unfamiliar design and a coat that probably held some kind of weapon. Clearly suspicious, but not threatening. He wasn't intimidated, and he wasn't about to let me go. I heard footsteps at my back; the second man was advancing.
"All right," I said. "I don't really have time to talk to you anyway."
Time seemed to slow as my futures branched. In one, the man behind me used the stock of his gun to club me on the back of the neck, stunning me and knocking me face down; the other man followed up, both of them aiming their weapons at me, shouting questions and threats. But that future was already ghostlike and fading as I turned from it towards others. In a handful of futures I spun away, drawing my gun and firing. Usually I killed one; in some I killed two, but all three men had me in their sights and nearly all the possibilities ended with bullets ripping through my body.
I blanked out those futures and looked at the ones where I caught the man behind me and used him as a shield. Instantly the futures opened up: the possibilities in which the other two men fired on me were rarer, and in most strands didn't happen at all. Their hesitation wouldn't last long, but it would be long enough for me to kill the man in front of me, then the one I was holding, then . . .
. . . the future terminated with a bullet through my head. The problem was the third man, hiding in good cover in the rocks to my right. In most of the futures in which I shot at him, I missed. In a few, I hit. That on its own wasn't a problem, but the ones in which I hit branched further: there was just time for the man's own trigger finger to squeeze, the bullet passing mine and taking me with him. And while I could choose which future I took, I couldn't choose which future he took. I needed a way to eliminate the risk.
I widened my search slightly and found a cluster of futures where I wasn't at risk of being shot. In all of them, I ducked down slightly, but I couldn't see why-ah. He had his rifle propped on the rocks, and couldn't depress its elevation below a certain angle without taking a second to shift his weight. I had the chain of events I needed. I opened my mind and called upon the fateweaver.
The future I'd chosen seemed to light up, energy flowing from my right hand up my arm and out into time and space. Unwelcome possibilities vanished, while the sequence of events I needed pulsed with light and strength, becoming an unbreakable chain. In an instant, every other future was banished, leaving only the fate that I chose.
It had all taken less than a second. Behind me, the second man's gun was just coming down.
I stepped left and turned. The movement was so casual that by the time the man behind me realised he was going to miss, his gun was swinging through empty air and he was stumbling past. He clutched at me and I took his hand, twisting it up and behind his back in a wristlock that drove him up onto his toes. At the same time I was sinking, using the movement to cover my right hand as it reached behind my back so that by the time the man in front of me saw the gun, it was already aimed at him. His eyes started to go wide.
I shot him through the head, aimed right and shot the man in the rocks, shoved the barrel up under the plates of the body armour of the man I was holding and fired a third time. He jerked and went limp, and I let him fall. The echoes of the shots rolled around the mountainside, rebounding from the far slopes to return again before fading into silence. I was left crouching, surrounded by three dead men, alone once more.
I straightened, holstered my gun, and kept climbing.
Another thirty seconds brought me to the way in. An illusion of a rock face covered a short tunnel that led to a thick metal door. The walls of the tunnel held traps, the door held a formidable-looking lock, and the whole area was heavily warded. It was a well-hidden and well-defended entrance.
Or at least it had been. The illusion spell had been broken, leaving the tunnel clearly visible, and the traps beyond had been triggered or destroyed. The only reason I could tell the tunnel had been warded was from its magical signatures, and even those were fading. The door had been ripped off its hinges, the solid steel bent and warped, leaving a gap that led into darkness. Beyond, nothing stirred; the area was silent but for the whistling wind.
It was about the most obvious Do Not Enter sign I'd ever seen. No prizes for guessing what I was about to do. Even after everything that had happened, I was still a diviner, and if there's one thing diviners do, it's poke their noses where they're not wanted.
Well, if you're going to do something stupid, you might as well have company.
I reached into my pocket, took out a small dull yellow pyramid, and set it down on the flattest piece of ground I could find. Then I stepped back and reached out mentally, stretching out my thoughts over a gap that was both unimaginably vast and thinner than a razor. Vari, I said. Clear to gate.
Thirty seconds passed. Sixty. Then the air above the pyramid glowed, turning from yellow to orange-red. Space seemed to ignite as flame flared into existence in a vertical oval, six feet high and three feet wide. The centre of the oval darkened and the oval became a ring, a gate linking two points in space, providing a view to a leafy forest, shadowed and gloomy. A young man stepped through, head turning as he scanned from side to side.
Variam Singh is small and compact, dark-skinned and dark-eyed. He used to be wiry, but he's filled out since he joined the Keepers. As far as I can tell, pretty much all the extra weight is muscle-Vari joined the Order of the Shield just as the Council was ramping up for war, and his first year as a journeyman mage was a busy one. He spared a glance at the bodies down the slope, then focused on the ruined door with a scowl. "Shit."
"We're too late, aren't we?" Variam said.
"Half an hour," I said. "She might still be inside."
Variam gave me a look.
We started towards the entrance. "Jagadev's goons?" Variam asked, nodding his head back down the slope.
"More likely a scout-response team," I said. "The Chinese Council claims this territory these days."
"How long till more show up?"
"None on the way, but let's not hang around."
We entered the tunnel, Variam conjuring up a flame of bright orange light. It danced and flickered, casting shadows on the rocky walls. I glanced at Variam's black robes and turban. "No armour?"
"I'm supposed to be on my lunch break," Variam said. "I check out a set of armour from the ready room, they might get a little suspicious. We clear?"
The doorway led through into a long, straight corridor, its walls made from smooth blocks of stone. A pair of torches burned in sconces, the magical flames casting light but no heat. Variam took a step forward.
Futures flashed up in front of me. "Stop!" I said sharply.
Variam froze instantly. "What?"
"Stay where you are and don't move forward," I said. "Watch." I looked around until I found a pebble about the size of a large grape, stepped up next to Variam, and tossed it underhand.
A blade swept out of the wall in a silver flash, hitting the pebble in midair with a whangggg! and sending it bouncing back down the corridor. Variam jumped away, but before he'd even landed, the blade had disappeared back into the wall. It had missed him by about two feet.
"Bloody hell," Variam said.
"Optical trigger," I said, nodding down the corridor. "Laser, probably. No magical signature, no heat signature, and that blade's strong enough to cut an armoured man in half. You know what's interesting?"
"You mean apart from that?" Variam glared at me. "No. No, I don't."
"What's interesting," I said, "is that that's exactly the kind of trap you'd use to kill a life mage or a fire mage."
"Thanks," Variam said. He scanned the ceiling, focusing on what looked like a piece of ornamental ironwork. "Sensor's in that?"
"Could be," I said. "Though we could just duck under-"
Variam raised his hand and a burst of heat melted the ironwork to slag.
"-or that works too," I finished. "You're clear."
Variam walked forward, kicking aside bits of cooling metal. I followed, scanning ahead for more dangers. "This would be easier if you'd let me take point."
"Screw that," Variam said, and I glanced sideways to see that his face was set. "You know what that bastard did. If she hasn't killed him, I will."
The door at the end of the corridor led into a wide circular room. In contrast to the corridor, the walls and floor were rough rock, with only a single smoothed path running through it. Variam stopped in the entrance. "This is another trap, isn't it?"
"It was," I said, pointing at the centre of the room. "See the residue there?"
"Earth magic, right? Some sort of ceiling collapse? Wait for people to get in, then drop the roof on them?"
"I thought of that too, but no. Looks more like a summon effect. I'd guess earth elemental. Similar result, but doesn't require you to dig out the whole room afterwards. It was summoned there, but it doesn't look like it had time to do much."
I shook my head.
We kept walking, following the smoothed path towards the door at the far end. "You planning to get in my way if we find him?" Variam asked.
"Yeah." Variam gave me a look that wasn't entirely friendly. "That was why you sat on this for five years, right?"
"I didn't want you going after him back then, if that's what you're asking."
"You try and give me some speech about forgiveness and how revenge isn't the way, I am going to punch you."
"I'm not going to hold you back," I said. "But I do want you to look before you leap. Remember that blade trap. Jagadev's had a long time to figure out how to kill you both if you came here. I am not okay with you going on a suicide run."--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B085BV7JF5
- Publisher : Ace (November 24, 2020)
- Publication date : November 24, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 1913 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 300 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0440000602
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #80,148 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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a number of "middle books", when the series needed to move onwards.
Alex had been advised by his spider-mentor to pick a side or be a side,
and in this book he took that advice -- in spades.
Alex has got problems. Lots of them. After making a considerable
effort to come to terms with England's Light Council, they are once
more trying to kill him. His friends are all under surveillance;
his girl friend is, on top of being split into light & dark personas,
gradually being taken over by a powerful Djin, and the powerful
artifact he acquired to enhance his Divination powers is gradually
Given the limited time that he has to work with, Alex has decided
that he is here to kick posteriors and chew bubblegum, and he
is all out of gum. I must say that this is a book with an impressive
body-count, and if Alex doesn't enjoy adding to it, he is no longer
willing to be a door-mat, and this applies to even those he once
Does it work? Well, that would be telling, but I'll just say that
by the end of the book Alex has different problems.
This book was a very taut return to form.
This book feels like a filler episode, though. In the absence of his tailor friend, the author has hamstrung himself as one of the deus ex aspects of Alex's support circle is gone, and the writing suffers for it. While it makes sense there isn't a way for the author to nudge his character in the 'write' direction, Jacka doesn't find a way to make Alex's bumbling interesting.
There's enough in the histories that I'm willing to wait another book (maybe two) for things to pick up, but
Also, the "twist" at the end is grotesquely predictable, but rather than feeling like the natural consequence of the last few books, it feels kajiggered into place for shock value.
If this were a meal, I would have sent it back and had the chicken instead.
Previously Alex was able to outthink and outsmart his enemies and with the Fate Weaver he can now influence the outcomes. The body count is reminiscent of a John Wick Movie: with Alex and Ann slaughtering the opposition and showing no mercy. The action is incredible. The consequences unknown.
A shaky truce between Alex and the Council at the end of the novel, but Ann is not finished in her revenge quest.
Hold on to your hat, Risen the final novel is due by the end of this year, and I can hardly wait!
Does he find love?
Why is he forever alone?
Why is he wanted by everyone?
Is live such a gruesome endeavor all the times?
It's the same reason why I never watch TV series. Game of Throne, what's that?
Perhaps it's better to resolve some of the big issues in his life and end the series. Then start another one.
I'm done, outahere.
Mage Verus is not only fighting for his status as a mage, now he is fighting for his life. That means that the rules are now off and every battle is to the death. Not good. But Alex started as a dark mage and to the dark side he returns.
Top reviews from other countries
I enjoyed the relentless action but I particularly liked the proximity the author gives us to Alex's decision-making, divination ability and morality. Alex is still very much the same guy who struggled to reconcile his ideals alongside his circumstances and the wrong-doing he experienced as an apprentice and at the hands of the Light Council. Now he's taking steps to own his future and his conversations about responsibility for actions and outcomes with Jagadev, Morden, Landis and Levistus are intriguing and full of insight of what the future may hold for Alex, and what would be worth living, or dying, for.
Morden's presence in this book is notable. He emerged early in the series as a typical dark mage baddie, but has become more nuanced, complex and considered, and I believe has had a significant role in enabling Alex's ability and confidence to challenge the power-players.
I am really excited for the final book in this series as I'm sure the author will deliver something outstanding! I am also really looking forward to reading whatever Benedict Jacka turns his skills and attention to next.
Note - this is not the book to start with for someone new to the series, I'd strongly advise starting at the beginning and reading each book to get to this thrilling installment.
Seriously though, I love the characters, I love the setting, I love the writing style I just love these books. It’s been so amazing to see Alex grow in power, he’s always been underestimated, but I just wish he could get a break and those freaking idiots on the council leave him alone and go after the real villains, ie Richard, et al. Instead they are again after Alex and being so heavily invested in this character I hate them! Spoilers here, I miss Arachne, I miss Anne, good Anne, I miss the interaction the 4 of them had and I hate that Alex can’t even go to see Luna without fear of placing her in jeopardy. Alex comments on how he misses his safe places, his shop, Arachne’s lair, the safe house in Wales and the interaction between the 4 friends, and I’m totally on board with that. That doesn’t mean I did not love this book, but I’m pro Alex all the way, he’s the good guy, the council are complete numpties and he’s forced to use nefarious means to just survive, and I so want him to get a break from constant pursuit. A few books back when he and Anne were declared outlaws and were on the run around the world for a large portion of the book I was exhausted for him! And it’s like that now for him in this book. Under constant pressure to keep moving before they pinpoint his location. Of course this adds to the breakneck spread of the book, which is amazing, but it does exhaust you after a while. He loves Anne, desperately wants to free her from the jinn whilst eliminating Levistus who is the most powerful member of the council now, in the hope it will remove the target from his back are the main themes. But his interaction with Anne is obviously very limited now, as is his time with Vari and Luna for their own safety and I feel so sorry for him on his own without his friends to just talk to! I could’ve punched Sonder for his attitude, I’ve never liked him though, slimy little git. Why is he the golden boy of the council and Alex the pariah, because he had the misfortune to be apprenticed to Richard like a million years ago grrrrr. Anyway it’s a fabulous book, I’m going to reread the entire series again now, like I do every year and dream of a world in which Benedict Jacka publishes the next book in 3 months sigh.
I would not recommend jumping in to the series on this book. Read from book 1 you won’t be disappointed. But once again I’m left wanting more and playing in my mind the possible scenarios for the next year. A fabulous read, I loved it.
It appears that I have the American version of this book. Living in the UK and ordering from Amazon.UK I expect to receive the UK edition which matched the original photograph on the website.
I'm sure the story is great but at the moment it is disappointing not too have a proper UK version
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2020
I'm sure the story is great but at the moment it is disappointing not too have a proper UK version