“Taken” by Benedict Jacka / Thursday, October 18, 2012 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Taken by Benedict Jacka.

"Taken" by Benedict Jacka

No evidence, no witnesses, no suspects.

Why Clay Stafford chose this book:

We’re veering from the normal (“normal world,” that is) in today’s Killer Nashville Book of the Day.

“Taken” by Benedict Jacka is an urban fantasy thriller. A thriller / mystery series set in the world of magic, this is the third installment in what started out – and continues to be – a great series. Even if you don’t like fantasy, you can latch on to this one. I found myself caught up in the world and, at no point, did I find myself questioning the reality of it. I might compare it to a “Harry Potter” for adults.

I chose “Taken” for three reasons: the plot, the realistic portrayal of the characters, and – for the writers in our group – an example of how theme can be used to enhance the reading experience for the reader.

Like the other two books in the series, the plot is elaborate enough to keep even the most active thriller and mystery sleuth guessing. In this installment, the story centers around the disappearances of several trainees in magic. They just disappear. The main character is asked to find out what is happening to them. “You don’t know whom to trust,” the main character Alex Verus tells a senior member of the Council. “But you trust me?” And the Council should. In a world of Dark Mages and Light Mages, the main character is a good guy, an outsider, and a defender of those who are in need, but he is also vulnerable in his own powers and abilities and that is what makes the reader want to cheer for him. Mages have different powers, like chess pieces. Not all are equal, but all are strong in their own way if played with skill. In battle, being weaker than many, there are no guarantees that our main character will win. That ups the thrill element. Plus, I like his attitude. As he says of himself, as an investigator, “to be honest, I don’t actually think I’m all that good.” Can’t argue with humility. There’s a great set of support characters, as well: Light and dark mages, manticores, ogres, nightmares, vampires, and more. Their seamstress is a huge spider. How more appropriate can you get than that? Don’t many hands make the work go faster?

For our writers, I wanted to use this book as an excellent example of incorporating theme. Subliminal themes tend to raise the quality of any work, you’ll find them in any great book, and any writer looking to “up” the theme element in their own works would benefit from studying how Jacka uses them here.

Though not heavy handed – and if you’re not looking for any “message,” then you’re probably not going to see one – the theme elements are there. The mages “protect normal humans from the magical world.” As you read the book, look at how those in the society are portrayed and compare that to the hidden forces in real life that protect us and give security regarding our national and international vulnerabilities. In another example, reminding us of even the best-intentioned governments in the world, “the Council’s old purpose is pretty much gone these days. It’s still the biggest power in magical society but nowadays people join it because they want to be in power, not because they believe in what it does.” Sound familiar? Using analogies of current events, but disguising them within the story world of the novel, causes the reader – consciously or not – to personally identify with basic truths and thus lifts the connection and common understanding between reader and writer. There are other themes, as well. But “theme” in this novel being so applicable and easily visible, I thought it best to comment should anyone wish to study it more.

Though number three in the series, this novel stands alone. However, when you read this one, you will want to read the previous two. Thankfully, Amazon does that wonderful little bundling thing so you can buy all three books for a discount, if you decide to go that route. If you’re like the main character and can see into the future, then you might as well go ahead and buy all three and then read them in sequential order.

From Amazon:

This time last year, I could go weeks without seeing another mage. In mage society I was an unknown and, all in all, that was how I liked it. It’s hard to say what changed. Whatever it was, I got involved in the magical world again and started getting myself a reputation.

Alex Verus’s insights into the future used to be the best-kept secret in London. Now, with the aid of his apprentice, Luna, his unique investigative talents are all the rage. He just has to be careful about picking his employers, because everyone-even the beautiful woman who practically begs him to run security for a prestigious tournament-has motives that can be hard to predict. And Alex doesn’t do unpredictable.

But his latest gig just might be impossible. Apprentices have been vanishing without a trace-and someone on the Council could be involved. Alex has no evidence, no witnesses, and no suspects. All he knows is that someone is keeping tabs on him. And after assassins target Luna’s classmate, Alex sees that he doesn’t know the half of it-and that he could be the next to disappear.”

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join ourFacebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville