Chosen is the Alex Verus book that I have been waiting for without even realising it. The Alex Verus books by Benedict Jacka that I have reviewed so far, ‘Fated‘, ‘Cursed‘ and ‘Taken‘ have always had a bit of a personal motivation for Alex to be involved, mostly that people are going to kill him because of the current event that is taking place. Chosen though is very much about a personal vendetta against Alex because of the events of his past.
In the first three books the hints about Alex’s past have been partially discussed. The reader has never been in the dark about the truth that Alex was once an apprentice to a Dark Mage, but the details were never something that Alex wanted to discuss. The first three books have very much been the recovery that Alex has started to go through after spending ten years practically isolated and hiding from his past. In the first three books though he is more openly exposed to the magical world, and he begins to build a network of friends and contacts that add to his happiness.
‘Chosen’ is an emotional roller coaster to read, and there a several very touching conversations that Alex has in the book that nearly brought me to tears, but good tears. I thoroughly enjoy books at are capable of touching me my heart and inducing an emotional reaction. It a sign of great character development and brilliant writing. The reason why the book is so powerful to read, especially having also recently read the first three books in the last week or so, is because all of the happiness that Alex has built up for himself is destroyed by a regret of his past coming back to haunt him.
The main plot of the book is Alex having to avoid being assassinated by a vigilante group called the Nightstalkers, made up of deadly magical adepts, who in the magical world are seen as second class citizens because they only specialise in one very specific type of magic, rather than a range like Mages. They have a lot of grudges against the magical world, but it is their leader Will who wants Alex dead because he believes that Alex is responsible for his sister Catherine’s death ten years before.
The group are absolutely relentless throughout the entire book in trying to find and kill Alex. They aren’t willing to listen to reason or listen to the offer that Alex tries to find out the truth about what happened, because even he does not know all the details himself. While they are like Alex in a way and that they don’t want to hurt innocent people, like Luna, Anne and Varium, in the heat of battle and in their pursue of their target, they forget themselves, and other people do end up being hurt.
Alex doesn’t want others to suffer because of mistakes of his past, and shows himself to be a truly complex character, as his struggle throughout the entire book is that he wants to be the nice person with friends and happiness. The dilemma that Alex faces is that he does not want to die either, but he does in part feel responsible for what happened. He is struggling with the possibility that in truth might be a horrible person. The complexity of the emotional strain and philosophical obstacles Alex has to overcome in ‘Chosen’ is one of the very best struggles I have read in fiction. Off the top of my head it is on par with Samwise in Lord of the Rings having to watch the ring destroy Frodo, and not be able to do much to help him.
The book is very much about having to face the consequences of your past actions. Alex knows that when he was young he did some pretty stupid things, top of the list being that he signed up with a Dark Mage in the first place. He is throughout the entire book trying to say to the young men and women who are coming after him that violence against him will not make them feel any better and that they will one day have to face the consequences of their choices in youth, like he is now having to face them.
In addition to this, there is an under current throughout the entire book that Jacka is beginning to set up a spectacular plot development involving the Dark Mage Richard that Alex had been an apprentice to all those years ago. The series has been so far a series of stand-alone novels that have had some loose connections to each other. One of Jacka’s great skills as a writer is to produce cliffhangers that keep you turning the page. From what I know from the synopsis of the next two books, I still think he’s going to write stand-alone novels, but I’m getting the impression they are going to be connected strongly connected together, which I see can only be a very goof development for the series.
You might also like my other reviews of Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus Series.