I would happily recommend ‘Hidden’ to anyone as it is a good read, but I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed when it came to reading the book because I had been so enraptured by the previous book in the series. I felt as if I was reading a combination of plots from ‘Taken‘ and ‘Chosen‘ again. The situations were sort of new, but I also sort of felt like the book was treading back over old ground. Fine some of the characters were still reeling from events of Chosen and didn’t want to be associated with Alex anymore, but I sort of felt that the entire book was just one long story about some of the characters getting over the last book.
Don’t get me wrong though it is a great book. Jacka has still delivered a page turner and I didn’t want to put it down, but that wasn’t until the last third of the book. Normally I can’t put down an Alex Verus novel from the very beginning, but I unfortunately found it very easy to put down to the extent it took me days to read when it normally only takes me hours for a Verus book. The first two thirds of the book certainly have its moments; the return to Tiger’s Palace was certainly a highlight, but some of the encounters with old favourites like Sonder, were just downright annoying.
I think the problem I have with the book is that I really, really like the character of Alex Verus, which isn’t a bad thing for Benedict Jacka. On two dimensional paper he has created a three dimensional person, which I know from experience of creating characters myself is no mean feat. Alex is a good guy in a tough situation; some of that is his own fault but he is at the point in his life when he is more than aware of that he has made some very bad mistakes in the past. He holds up his hands and admits that he’s not perfect and that quality is for me what makes him so believable. I just unfortunately feel that for this book the plot and the other characters have let the protagonist down a little bit.
It really irritates me when the other characters can’t see that he does have very good intentions but that sometimes he doesn’t have a choice about following them. Here in lies one problem with using the first person voice; you only see the story from that character’s perspective. Add in my own realism and I really do struggle to understand the motivations of some of the characters that do not like violence. As idealistic as they are, it also makes them incredibly naive, even though none of the characters of the magical world are ignorant of the fact that some people in their world are going to be violent over reasonable.
One of the very best interactions though is Alex with his father; a strained relationship to say the least, but his pacifism is based on the reality of the real (our) world, not on the dangers of the magical one. He is the only one of the characters who have problems with Alex having to use the violent option in order to survive that I can find believable. He lives in a different world; academia, which for all of its wisdom and intelligence can be a very isolated place. I know this from experience after completing two degrees and I now work at a university as well. The harsh realities of our world rarely touch academic places, so his father’s problems with his son’s past which are based in a world he doesn’t even know about is very well conceived, if a little bit undeveloped in ‘Hidden’, I hope it is the beginning of a new perspective on Jacka’s world; that of an outsider who doesn’t know magic exists. Trying to explain it exists could be a great conversation.
You might also like my other reviews of Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus Series.