Risen by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus series: Book 12)

Alex Verus has had quite the ride. Looking back, it seems more than a little unlikely that he would have made it this far. Without his friends, there's no doubt he would have died long ago. Yet until recently, it's been easy to forget what Alex is truly capable of. The potential of his power and the darker side of his nature, which so interested Drakh, has been revealed in flashes, then minimised by his internal moralising. So determined to be the good guy, his 'best choice in the moment' decisions have nevertheless walked him down the typical path of a Dark Mage. As a result, a significant amount of his time has been spent ignoring or agonising over the truth: that he was never going to be a Light Mage.

We should have known. Save a few standouts, all the best characters have all been delightfully wicked or outright psychotic. Benedict Jacka has gifted readers with an incredible cast of morally ambiguous characters in Team Bad (as well a load with zero ambivalence and more than a dash of evil). I'm not sure I appreciated while reading just how interesting, perhaps even necessary, some of their choices actually were, illustrating what might well have been an inevitable path - one which Alex has ultimately taken himself. (I won't tell you whether he ends up in the same kind of place, you'll have to read Risen to find out). In any case, Jacka's progressive refashioning of Alex's ethical framework, made especially clear in the last 2-3 books, has impacted my own reading of the entire series. I mean, come on, the Light Mages are a bunch of self-important dicks. Sure, this has been obvious throughout, but the cumulative idiocy and supreme pettiness of their actions have painted the actions of some Dark Mages in a whole new light. It's been cleverly done. We've been at Alex's side from the outset, taken every step right alongside him. Somehow we've found ourselves on the wrong (?) side. How easy it was to get here…

In this final instalment, the most important question was always going to be just how Verus could effectively manage his dual nature and still win... if such an outcome was even possible. I had absolutely no idea how Jacka would finish it, but I was thrilled with the ending. Sad as I am to say goodbye, I think Jacka did his series justice, both in the high-action battles and in the character outcomes for all those who are left alive. At that, I'll say no more.

A wonderful series that I'm already looking forward to reading again. Recommended.

9/10 A wonderful series that I'm already looking forward to reading again

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