Book Review: Risen by Benedict Jacka
Author: Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus #12
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: December 2nd 2021
Source: Personal Copy
Read: December 9 – December 18, 2021 (on Kindle)
Rating: 3 of 5 stars (I liked it)
The castle was falling.
Being the twelfth (and final!) book of the series, the blurb contains many spoilers for the series as a whole.
As such, I won’t copy it here. You may read it here if so inclined.
“I suppose I’m . . . just less interested in the far future? The present seems more important.”
Apparently, I’m really bad at keeping track of what a series is going to be and when it’s going to end. I’m told that the fact this book would be the end of the Alex Verus series was up on Benedict Jacka’s blog since sometime last year. But I didn’t come into the book knowing that and I think that not knowing has dramatically shaped my perception of the outcome of the book.
Even as I write this I’m still trying to unpick how I feel about both the series as a whole and this book in it specifically.
I’ve bounced the ratings around a fair bit in my head as a result, but I think it comes down to this:
As an entry in the Alex Verus series — it’s pretty strong. It is the culmination of events from the last several books at the very least with some of the other conflicts resolved here having origins right from the very start.
The action is intense and once it gets started it doesn’t easily let you go. Alex has come a long way in terms of power from where he started and yes, to an extent, this does blunt the degree of cleverness required to best his vastly more powerful opponents. But not entirely — there is still a fun element of cat and mouse.
So considered as a book in a continuing series I would’ve put this comfortably at a 4 of 5 stars (I really liked it). Maybe even a full 5 of 5 (I loved it). Urban fantasy is something I rate on perhaps a slightly different scale though. It’s more the way one loves junk food. Fantastic in the moment, but not something you want too much of.
As a series ender though?
To be fair — it did conclude most of the threats and story strands started in the series. And for some of them, I’d go so far as to say it did it well.
And, I also have to consider how my impressions have been shaped by simply being unaware this was the end going in. I wasn’t ready. So hold that in your head too — if you go in already knowing this, your reactions may well be significantly more positive.
All that said — as great as the action is, I’m much more strongly drawn to character arcs. Alex has been changed over the course of the series — in power yes, but also in how he reacts to situations. While never losing the spark driving him to protect his friends, as things progress, it becomes easier and easier to “do what’s necessary” to anyone getting in the way.
Never is this more clear than when Alex, in this very book, manipulates futures to align so that someone standing in his way is assassinated.
While certainly pushed into this new outlook in many respects, plus recognising albeit a little late, a certain magical influence in this direction with this being the end of the series I’m not sure we’ll ever see a conclusion to this arc.
No chance of redemption. This door shut behind us.
With so many of the characters I would’ve liked to see Alex find peace with out of the picture, I can perhaps understand why Jacka didn’t think he could continue writing down this path. Not with Alex as the primary protagonist. That there is an epilogue where the point of view shifts to Luna makes me hope that perhaps the door isn’t quite so firmly shut as I fear.
And honestly, if the Luna point of view is carried forward and we do get some indirect closure to these elements in the future, it would shift how I view this book in and of itself, too.
My understanding though, is that Benedict Jacka wishes to start a new series with a new world and new characters. And even my current disappointment in how this series wrapped up isn’t enough to damper my interest in what Jacka does next. He’s a talented writer within this sphere of chocolate bar books so I’m still going to be there for the next chomp whenever it is ready.