Author: Benedict Jacka
What’s it About: Close to a year after the events in Chosen, Alex has a conversation with Talisid, who offers him the opportunity to work as an investigator for the Light Mage Council, surprising Alex with the offer. Alex knows that there are many people on that council who do not like him, and that becoming part of the Light Mage Council, would make his life difficult. As he considers this, Luna, his apprentice, comes to his shop, insisting that Alex speak to Anne, who Luna considers to be her best friend, about moving back into Alex’s flat, especially now that Anne had been expelled from the Light Apprenticeship program, making her a target for any mage out there.
Begrudgingly, Alex agrees, and heads to Anne’s flat, where he discovers that she is running a make-shift clinic. A guy charges into Anne’s flat, looking for some drugs, and Alex tries to come to her rescue, but she tells him not to interfere. He leaves, and then finds a spot in a nearby reserve to sit and wait. Anne finally shows up, and they talk, but once again, she refuses his help because of the events in Chosen. Knowing that there’s nothing else that he can do, Alex heads home, stopping along the way to speak with Variam.
The next day, Luna attempts to call Anne, but does not get through, and then guilts Alex into coming with her all the way to Anne’s flat. Alex tells Luna to be on the lookout, while he goes into Anne’s apartment, where he finds that a fight had broken out. Caldera arrives shortly thereafter, followed by Sonder, who is not happy to see Alex also as a result of the events in Chosen. Sonder uses his time magic to find out that Anne had been kidnapped by two men who had gated out, but that gate was hidden by a shroud. As they leave, Sonder attempts to talk to Luna about leaving Alex as her Master and apprenticing with another Light Council Mage because of Alex history; however, Luna is having none of it, and leaves in a fit of anger. Alex too leaves in a fit of anger after arguing with Sonder.
The next day, everyone meets up at Sonder’s apartment, including Variam. Sonder claims that Crystal is the mage who is most likely behind Anne’s kidnapping, but Variam is vocally opposed to that as he thinks it’s most likely going to be Sagash, due to Anne’s history as his apprentice. Caldera and Sonder need to check out the meeting with the Dark Mages that will happen that night at Tiger’s Palace, but aside from needing Alex’s help with the layout of the Palace, as well as his divination once they’re inside the Palace, they do not want him anywhere near it. Nevertheless, Alex hatches a plan with Variam and Luna to go to the Palace that night.
At the Palace, Luna and Alex go their separate ways to investigate leads. Alex speaks to a few Dark Mages, including Sagash, who tells him that he has no interest in Anne and had not kidnapped her. Alex also finds Morden, who recognizes him right away despite the facade Alex is wearing. Caldera and Sonder arrive, and Alex saves Sonder from being attacked by Dark Mages. Luna then comes and takes Sonder to do some Time Magic near two men apprenticed to Sagash. A fight enues, and Alex and Luna manage to evade everyone. Variam helps them gate out of the area, leaving behind Caldera and Sonder.
A day later, Caldera and Sonder go into the apartment belonging to one of the apprentices–Darren. Variam and Alex are acting as the lookout on the other side of the street, which is when Variam tells Alex exactly what he had to do in order to find Anne–He had spoken to a Dragon, who showed Variam a darker side of Anne, but Variam never confronted Anne about it. Caldera and Sonder return to the apartment in which Alex and Variam are in; however, something is off. Caldera is silent, watching Sonder, who starts arguing with Variam again about whether Crystal or Sagash are behind Anne’s kidnapping. It then becomes obvious to Alex that Sonder is lying, which finally Sonder admits by saying that the conversation from the party revealed that Crystal wasn’t behind the kidnapping. That causes Caldera to end the assistance provided by the Keepers in finding Anne-as far as the Council Keepers are concerned, since Crystal is not involved in Anne’s kidnapping, and it could be any Dark Mage, it is not up to them to police it. Everyone leaves, ultimately leaving Alex alone in the apartment. He continues to watch Darren’s apartment building, and when he finally sees the guy, Alex makes his move.
He attempts to speak to Darren first, but the guy recognizes him, and Alex has to paralyze him. He uses that opportunity to search Darren and takes the gate stone that would allow him to get into Sagash’s shadow realm, as well as Darren’s phone, in order to make it more difficult for him to reach out to the other apprentice. Alex makes a split-second decision and decides to gate into the shadow realm, letting Luna know his plans.
Once inside the shadow realm, he crosses the bridge to the castle, which he then discovers is actually a mini-city. Alex spends a lot of his time using his divination walking through the whole mini-city until he finds Anne, at which point, he makes his way to her. She is utterly exhausted, hiding in a windmill. Anne manages to relax with him around, and falls asleep while Alex keeps watch, doing additional divination walks in order to learn the layout of the city. She wakes up, out of worry, but then falls asleep on his shoulder, and Alex falls asleep as well. He meets the inner Anne, a split in Anne’s conciousness that after the first time she had to defend herself in Sagash’s realm, who tells him what actually happened to Anne.
The next morning they wake up, and while Alex tries to figure out what to do next, he notices a blink fox, which is a magical creature that can teleport short distances. Anne and Alex are about to leave when Richard Drakh, Alex’s former master, shows up and offers them positions within his organization. It’s not really an offer though, as Richard also reveals that Sagash’s apprentices, Sagash’s constructs, and Crystal are looking for Alex and Anne, which looks like they’re being cornered. Alex takes his chances and says no, after which a battle ensues, and Anne is captured by Crystal. Alex in the meantime manages to outrun and outsmart the apprentices and their constructs, until he only has to battle one of them, who happens to be a life mage. He wins the battle against his life mage, and she tells him where Anne would be held.
Alex returns to the windmill, looks through his pockets, and then realizes that he can call the fox, offering it to return to the real world where it can live amongst other blink foxes, and not be hunted by the apprentices, if it helps him find his way into the keep. The fox accepts, and leads him through some tunnels to the keep, where Anne is being held. Alex goes up to see Sagash, and tells him exactly what is going on with Crystal, at which point Crystal, Darren and the second apprentice, Sam, show up. Crystal tries to make it sound like Alex is lying, but ultimately has to battle Anne in order to prove herself to Sagash, because she broke the contrac that she had with him. Alex is mean to Anne, because he needs that inner Anne to come out and end Crystal, and during the battle, Anne does become the victor; however, she does not kill Crystal. Since there’s no clear winner, Sagash attempts to keep both women in his realm, but Alex manages to outsmart him, and also to get Crystal on his side, at least temporarily. She helps them gate, and during the second gating from the Shadow Realm back into the real world, Crystal tries to distract Anne in order to keep her in the realm, but the fox teleports through the gate, biting into Crystal. Once she finishes fending off the fox, Anne is on top of her, and it takes Anne only lifting a finger to send Crystal running. Alex calls Caldera to inform her that Crystal is in London.
Alex and Anne spend the next day upon their return being interrogated by the Light Mage Council about Sagash’s Shadow Realm, and what happened with Crystal, since the council could not find her, but they ultimately release them both. That night, Alex is alone in his apartment, when the fox shows up on his couch, and asks to be fed. Anne also shows up, and they talk, reestablishing their friendship, about their pasts, their fears and Alex also encourages her to talk to inner Anne. In turn, she tells him that the next time Richard shows up, they’ll be in it together and will find a way to defeat him.
My Verdict: This book was a lot better than Chosen. I liked finally seeing the real story behind Anne, and seeing the depths of her character get developed. Despite all that she has been through, she is a good person, and Alex sees that–he sees that she’s not a danger to society unless she’s pushed to the brim and needs to protect herself and those she loves, and even then, she still stops without going over the edge. I think that’s what makes Anne a contrast to Alex–they both share similar backgrounds what with the dark masters and the abuse, as well as the killing–but their powers are so different that Alex only has an either-or option, while Anne has the ability to hold power over a person’s life, making them afraid enough to leave her alone without killing them. Personally, I think they’d make a good power couple, so I cannot wait to see what the next book holds for them.