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Cursed
Cover of Cursed
Cursed
Alex Verus Series, Book 2
Dark rituals drag London mage Alex Verus into the center of a conspiracy in this thrilling novel from the national bestselling author of Marked.

Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex Verus has been keeping his head down. But now he's discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures—destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda.

Hired to investigate, Alex discovers not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power. Alex still has the advantage of seeing the future—but he might not have a future for much longer.
Dark rituals drag London mage Alex Verus into the center of a conspiracy in this thrilling novel from the national bestselling author of Marked.

Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex Verus has been keeping his head down. But now he's discovered the resurgence of a forbidden ritual. Someone is harvesting the life-force of magical creatures—destroying them in the process. And draining humans is next on the agenda.

Hired to investigate, Alex discovers not everyone on the Council wants him delving any deeper. Struggling to distinguish ally from enemy, he finds himself the target of those who would risk their own sanity for power. Alex still has the advantage of seeing the future—but he might not have a future for much longer.
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    Chapter One


    The old factory was the kind of place you only find in the very worst parts of big cities. Its bricks had once been red, but years of grime and pollution had darkened them to a brownish–grey. The outer wall was topped with ragged coils of razor wire. The wire was rusted and full of holes that hadn’t been repaired in years, as if the owners had decided that they couldn’t keep the burglars out but might at least be able to give them tetanus on the way in.

    The rest of the dead–end street was dark, empty–looking buildings and shops hiding behind steel security gratings. The gratings were covered in graffiti and it was hard to tell whether the businesses locked behind them were still open or whether they’d been abandoned too. The only shop that looked in good shape carried the triple–sphere sign of a pawnbroker’s. Behind the shops and factory was the sort of council estate where the muggers use broken bottles because they can’t afford knives.

    It was only eleven o’clock and the rest of London was filled with the sounds of the city, but on the street nothing moved. The road was empty except for parked cars. Half of them were missing wheels, windows, or both, and none would have looked out of place in a junkyard—except for the minivan parked at the top of the street. Its polished black paint melted into the shadows, with the orange glow from the streetlights picking out the silver hubcaps and lights along with the Mercedes symbol mounted on the grill. I rolled my eyes when I saw it. My senses told me there was no immediate danger but I stayed in the shadows of the alley and scanned the street for another minute before walking out towards the van.

    Most of the streetlights were broken and the ones still working were patchy. I walked the street’s length cloaked in darkness, with only the occasional circle of orange piercing the gloom. Looking over my shoulder I could see the pillars of light of the Canary Wharf skyscrapers, visible over the rooftops. We were close to the river, even if I couldn’t see it, and as I walked I heard the mournful sound of a boat’s horn echoing off the water. Ragged clouds covered most of the sky, their cover blending with the glow of the streetlights to hide the stars.

    As I reached the van one of the front windows slid down, and the street was quiet enough that I could hear the purr of the motor. I stopped by the door and looked at the man sitting inside. “Could you possibly have made it any more obvious?”

    My name is Alex Verus. I’m a mage, a diviner. In mage terms I’m unaligned, which means I’m not affiliated with the Council (the main Light power block) but don’t count myself as a Dark mage either. Although I’m not part of the Council I do freelance jobs for them, like this one. The man in the passenger seat to whom I was talking was my contact with the Council, a mage named Talisid, and he gave me a patient nod. “Verus.”

    “Good to see you.” I looked the van up and down. “Seriously, a Mercedes? Did you get it waxed, too?”

    “If you’re concerned about stealth,” Talisid said, “perhaps we shouldn’t be talking in the open?”

    Talisid is a man in his forties, shorter than average, with greying hair receding from a balding head. He always seems to be wearing the same understated business suit, but with a sort of steadiness that suggests he might be more than meets the eye. I’d met him in the spring, at a ball in Canary Wharf where he’d offered me a job. Things didn’t exactly go to...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 23, 2012
    Jacka follows his urban fantasy debut, Fated, with an even more impressive tale of gunplay and spellcraft in present-day London. In a culture dominated by battle mages, Alex Verus’s best offense is a good defense: he can see all possible futures, and he aims straight at the ones where he doesn’t die. Both Light and Dark mages keep trying to hire him, but he just wants to run his magical trinket shop and teach his friend Luna how to manage her family curse. This dream is disrupted when a new friend of Luna’s claims he can destroy the curse with a dangerous wish-granting artifact, and Alex learns that some unhinged mages want to steal life energy from the dwindling population of magical creatures—including one of Alex’s few friends, the charming room-sized spider Arachne. Jacka keeps the emotional tension high with a series of wakeup calls for Alex regarding his relationship with Luna, his place in London’s magical social circles, and his image of himself. Readers will savor this tasty blend of magic, explosions, and moral complexity. Agent: Sophie Hicks, Ed Victor Literary Agency.

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Alex Verus Series, Book 2
Benedict Jacka
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