Forged (Alex Verus #11), by Benedict Jacka

Forged by Benedict Jacka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this eleventh instalment of Benedict Jacka’s “Alex Verus” series, “Forged” (as aptly titled as ever!), Alex is back at fixing lots of problems. Let’s take a quick look back first, though.

In “Fallen” we saw how Alex had to harden and tackle things differently than he used to. He ‘fell’ away from trying to be the nice guy and concentrated on what he felt had to be done. He picked himself up and re-emerges ‘forged’ by the blows he received and the hits he delivered.

“Forged” picks up right there: Alex is back in force and at the height of his game. He quickly realises he currently has three major issues:

  • The Council of (Light) Mages
  • Richard Drakh, his former master (and his (former) entourage)
  • (Dark) Anne, his (ex-?)lover, recently possessed by a Jinn

To be able to solve them, he has to solve them separately because he can’t deal with all three at the same time.

We get to know this ‘forged’ Alex a lot better in this penultimate book of the series:

»I was left crouching, surrounded by three dead men, alone once more.«

This Alex is harder than ever before. Most of the time, he doesn’t even consider how to deal with his enemies non-lethally – not because he’s turned to “evil” but because he’s running out of time and alternatives on many levels.

Over the years, Alex has found (and lost) friends he cares for deeply. Even mortal enemies are given chance after chance to walk away. Only now under enormous duress does Alex resolve to the ultima ratio

Everything Alex does is to protect those he loves from harm. Most prominently Anne, Luna, Variam but others as well. That’s his cause for which Alex is willing to kill and, if necessary, die.
It started showing in the previous book already but by now it’s crystal clear that Alex has developed the will to power, but not for the sake of power, but for the sake of his cause. Which, to me, is just.

As a result, we’re confronted with more blood and gore but never unnecessarily or crossing the border beyond which it would become disgusting.

Some loose threads are being picked up again, e. g. Shireen…

»“Tomorrow, Shireen,” I said. “It’s time to end this.” I stepped out of Elsewhere, and back into my own dreams.«

Or… others…

»“Enough chances,” Cinder said. “I get it.”«

Nothing in the narration is over the top but it’s mostly tense and suspenseful. There are some scenes of serene beauty, though, and they counter what otherwise might have become too bleak.

Most importantly, we witness Alex neither being “light” nor “dark” – he’s somewhere in between and even former enemies can acknowledge and, in some cases, respect that. Those self-righteous zealots who reject Alex’ offer of safe conduct and might redeem themselves if it weren’t for their fanaticism, in turn fall – never to rise again.

While Alex’ methods might seem extreme at times, when his enemies tempt his allies they choose to stand at his side based on their own free will.

When I read “Fallen”, I wasn’t sure I liked the direction Jacka was taking. Now I know he was right and what’s coming was and is inevitable…

“Forged” is on many levels the culmination of everything that came before it and does its author great honour. I can hardly wait for the final instalment, “Risen”, which is expected in December 2021.

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