Book Review: Veiled

Title: Veiled
Author: Benedict Jacka
Genre: Fiction

What’s it about: After returning from an information gathering mission with his friends, Alex Verus, a divination mage, speaks with Talisid, a mage on the Light Council, who sent him out for this mission, as the information Alex was given was incorrect. Afterwards, Alex speaks with Luna, his apprentice, and Variam, another apprentice mage, who convince him to become an auxiliary Keeper force. It wouldn’t make Alex the Council Keeper, but it would give him the protection of the Light Council to an extent against Richard Drakh, his former master.

Alex gets paired up with Keeper Caldera, who he has worked with in the past–she is the one ultimately deciding on whether or not to officially accept him into the auxiliary forces, and she give him a one month trial to prove himself. As part of this trial, Alex gets a case, so he heads out to the location where the case occurred, and finds a marble, which turns out to be a data focus. Alex cannot give up on this case, so he returns a second time, and this time he gets attacked by an Air Mage by the name of Chamois–a French national who supposedly is an assassin. Alex manages to escape and gets healed by Anne, a friend of his that is a Life Mage. When he and Caldera check the CCTV footage after the attack, they find that on the day of the initial call that resulted in Alex’s case, a young boy ran away from the platform of the train in fear.

At the same time, Alex looks for a chance mage for Luna as he know that he’s taught Luna everything that he could. It is actually Luna that finds one that may be able to teach her–Chalice–but Alex has his reservations because she is a Dark Mage. He still meets with her, and they both aren’t fully honest with each other, but as a sign of good faith, Chalice gives him an address to a house and her only request is that they help each other in times of need. Alex calls Caldera for backup and they go to the house at the address, where they find the boy from the train platform, and after further questioning, Caldera realizes that there’s more at stake–the boy is part of the White Rose–so she calls it in. Then they get attacked, and while Caldera is able to fight off the Icecats after the boy, she is unable to fight off a Mantis Golem, which are constructs used by the Light Council as bodyguards. Alex saves her life by holding off the golem until Variam and his master arrives–Caldera had called for back-up, but none of the people from her Keeper Order showed up to assist. The next day, Alex goes to the “War Rooms” under Westminster Palace, for a hearing regarding the White Rose–an organization that deals in human trafficking and information, which the Council never bothered because they never broke the Concord always using adepts or humans for the Mage’s desires. In it, Alex avoids interrogation with Levistus, an old enemy of his, who wants to retain the people who have the seats on the Council to retain them, and is trying to keep Morden off the Council. Levistus tells him that if he’s not working with him, he’s working against him and that he will come after Alex with his full power.

Ultimately, the order comes down to bring Vihaela, one of the top commanders of the White Rose organization, in for questioning. Alex is chosen to be part of the team to bring her in, and when they raid one of the safe houses belonging to the White Rose, a carbon copy of Vihaela comes through a gate, and all of the Keepers attack her. During the fight, someone attempts to kill Alex, but he gets warned enough in advance that he dives to the side, avoiding the kill shot. He then tells Haken, the leader of the group, that it was someone on the team that killed the Carbon Copy of Vihaela. Haken sets up a meeting for the two of them that night, and they gate into the Estate where the White Rose has headquarters. It turns out that Haken and Cerulean, another man on the team who were supposed to bring Vihaela in, were working for the White Rose, and Cerulean attempts to kill Alex. Alex evades them, and overhears them talking when Vihaela shows up and tells them that the order to bring Alex came from her boss, Marannis, who was in charge of the White Rose. Ultimately, she kidnaps Haken and Cerulean calls it in that Alex is the suspect.

When they leave, Alex uses the opportunity to call Caldera, who tells him that there is an order to bring him in, but he manages to convince her that he was not behind it. Ultimately, Caldera along with Luna, Variam, and Variam’s master Landis, come to Alex’s rescue. On top of that Caldera calls in members of the Order of the Star to assist, and after hassling it out, they agree to not bring Alex in until they find Haken. Alex manages to get Caldera, Slate, and Trask into the stronghold of the White Rose without detection. They find Haken, and also speak to Vihaela, who reveals that she’s working with Chamois but also for a different boss, and ultimately she was the one that orchestrated the whole thing to bring the White Rose down as her boss wanted.

At first, Alex gets interrogated, but soon the Keepers and the Council lose interest in prosecuting him because the consequences surrounding the interrogation of the witnesses involved with White Rose were much larger. They created a political storm that pulled three people off of the Junior and Senior Councils, and with Marannis dead and Vihaela in the wind, the White Rose disintegrated. A week later, Luna and Alex sit in the Belfry of the War Rooms talking about the new information that came to light regarding Marannis and Vihaela, when Haken shows up to speak with Alex. During their conversation, Haken tells Alex that Levistus will come after him and there won’t be any more threats or warnings, especially once he gets the seat on the Senior Council.

Alex meets with Caldera, who gives him the signet for the auxiliary forces of the Keeper Order of the Star, after which they start a new case. A month later, Alex watches Morden get initiated to the Council, the first Dark Mage on the Light Council, and history being made. During the ceremony, Alex hears Richard’s voice in his ear, startling him, but Richard is nowhere nearby, and Alex walks out before the Ceremony ends.

My Verdict: Alex is developing further as a well-recognized mage in Mage Society, but he’s also realizing his precarious situation as an independent mage, especially with as many enemies that he has. While he does have friendships, he is the only recognized mage amongst them, which means that he’s the one that has to protect them. He’s cognizant of that, so he chooses the option that will allow him a semblance of independence, but also give him some protection. It seems to be a good payoff–he helps the Keepers out in exchange for some protection or safety–except knowing Alex, he likes doing things his way, and considering the attitude of some of the Mages on the Light Council and in the Keeper’s Orders towards former Dark Mages, I doubt there’s any way that the protection will be consistently offered to Alex. But it’s become clear that Alex cares about his friends very much and wants to do everything to protect them, and the friendships benefits Alex just as well. At the same time, it becomes very evident that Alex is getting into a precarious situation between Richard, Morden and Levistus after him to join their side against the other, so it will be interesting to see how Alex develops in the coming books as a mage, and friend. I wonder if he will stay true to himself as an independent, amassing friendships with the adepts and former Dark Mage apprentices, being a bridge between the two factions of Mage Society, or he will choose a side.

It’s hard to say what Alex will do, but at this moment, I am rooting for him to stay true to himself and be very inclusive, open and welcoming to all those who may seek recourse in a Mage society that is not kind to them whatsoever. I think this is what makes these books a joy to read–seeing how Alex, by being true to himself, draws people seeking solace and help, especially those who aren’t treated right, and that Alex stays true to his values about what he believes is the right thing to do, no matter who the person asking for his help is, and no matter what the Concord rules. He’s not judgmental of people’s pasts, or their choices, and he’s very amenable to different points of view, which makes Alex a person that everyone wants to go to.

Overall, this book is an interesting addition to Alex’s story, and goes further in clearing up what Keepers are like within the Mage Society. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to the next book.

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