Burned (2016)

burned

Your enjoyement of Burned, the 7th entry in the Alex Verus series, depends on how much you prefer episodic vs myth-arc content, to take a metaphor from TV (X-Files and pretty much every genre show these days). It’s not a perfect metaphor for urban fantasy series like Alex Verus or for example the Harry Dresden ones, as most books are single episodes that advance the overall arc in small and subtle ways, usually until you reach a point in the series where a full-on myth-arc book is needed to untangle all the plot threads and/or move the overall story forward.

Burned is pretty much this for the Alex Verus series, where there is basically no filler-mystery that has subtle connections to the overall myth-arc. Instead we start with a death sentence by the light mage council, Alex trying to get out of this predicament and things pile up until major status quo changes are instituted and the novels ends.

It’s not so much a cliffhanger for the book, which in itself is self-contained (more or less, as it’s myth-arc heavy and wouldn’t make much sense to newcomers), as it’s a cliffhanger for the first half of the series where Alex was allowed to act as an independent mage and do his own things. At the end of the book this has changed, and as so often in the series, for the worst.

I do like the developments here, both minor stuff as well as the overall change in direction, but on the other hand I do miss the more episodic approach of the earlier novels. Well done myth-arc stuff can be exiting, but it reads much better once you have a series fully finished on your hand and not have to wait for each new entry for a year or more.

The big change here makes a lot of sense in terms of what the series is doing, but I do wish Alex had more control over his fate, or at least had proactively made the choice to work for Richard again, instead of being forced into it. In the past Alex was realist enough to make the necessary choices to survive, here he becomes a bit too much like Harry Dresden (annoyingly idealistic and incapable of compromising his ideals). So while it’s an intense read from start to end, I liked some of the plot execution less than I hoped I would, given how Alex acted in the past.

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