Author: Benedict Jacka
What’s it about: Bound picks up the same day that Burned ended–with Alex joining Morden as his aide at the Council. He’s unable to enter the Junior Council chambers, and sits outside waiting for Morden, during which time he gets approached by a variety of people. Within a day, it becomes obvious that Alex has a knack for dealing with the people who approach him, and continues to spend months working as Morden’s aide. In the meantime, since he is a Keeper, Alex attempts to assist in an official capacity, but he is shut out by everyone in the Keeper’s Headquarters. The same goes for Anne, who works with the Life Mages. Ultimately, she decides to start a healing clinic for the normals, against the Council’s wishes. Throughout it all, Alex also assists Archon, a messenger, with various tasks assigned to him by Richard Drakh, his former master.
Then, Alex gets asked by the Keepers to deliver a box to the Vault, which sets off a chain of events. Entering into the entrance, he gets attacked, and fights off the three adepts, and the two Mages–Lightbringer and Zilean. He manages to deliver the package safely, but none of the Keepers assist him to bring the attack to light, and the whole thing gets swept under the rug. Shortly thereafter, Alex gets told that he and Anne will have to go to a deep shadow realm to get a dreamstone for Richard, which presents a problem as dreamstones are notoriously hard to find, and Alex has been looking for one himself after advice from Arachne, his spider friend who is the size of two pick-up trucks stacked on top of each other. Together with Luna and Variam, Alex and Anne enter the shadow realm of Karyos, a hamadyrad, which are creatures bonded to a tree.
As with everything else thus far in Alex’s life, they group gets attacked by flying flowers that shoot needles and bushes that entrap them, in The Hollow, Karyos’ domain. Anne is able to shroud herself, and reach Karyos to neutralize her, leaving everyone safe without destroying Karyos. Leaving Variam and Luna behind, Alex and Anne enter the deep shadow realm, where they face their own trials to get to dreamstones, but both of them exit the realm with dreamstones of their own. Due to the difference in how time passes in the two shadow realms, Alex and Anne return later than they thought to Luna and Variam, who in the meantime cleaned up the Hollow and moved Karyos to a regeneration seed, where she will grow for several eyars.
The four of them agree to take care of The Hollow by using it as their base of operation for the time being, so they set up gate wards and other protections around the Shadow Realm. With Arachne’s blessing, Alex gives one of the two dreamstones to Richard. Soon thereafter, Anne gets kidnapped by Lightbringer and Zilean, who take her to a council safehouse, where they torture her for information on Morden’s plans. When Alex, Luna, and Variam arrive to save Anne, she is in a pretty bad state, and takes a while to recover. Even then, Anne begins to regress into herself, refusing to talk to anyone, and none of the Keepers are able to bring Lightbringer and Zilean to justice for what they had done, even though they had broken the Concord agreement.
After weeks of paranoia that Morden will attack the War Rooms, where the Light Council meets, Morden tells Alex that this is exactly what he intends to do, and tells Alex to be ready with Anne in two days time. Alex, after further deliberation, reaches out to Talisid and warns him about the impending attack, in exchange for removing the Council edict on killing Anne and him as well as asking for immunity for what happens while they are under Morden’s orders. The next day, Anne and Alex arrive to meet with Vihaela and Deleo, where they are separated. As Alex assists Vihaela, he realizes that they are in The Vault–the attack on the War Room was misinformation meant to send all of the security forces to the wrong location. Vihaela and her cohorts clean out the Vault, while Alex outsmarts Onyx. When the Crusader black ops team arrive for back up to the Vault, Vihaela leaves Anne behind with an open box that Alex quickly recognizes as being the box he pulled out of the bubble realm in Syria.
At that moment, Alex realizes that Richard’s plan wasn’t to get Alex to get the item inside, but rather for Anne to do so. The item holds a powerful Jinn–a creature that uses wish magic, but works best with empathetic people. Despite Alex’s warnings, Anne puts her hand in the box to protect herself against the black ops team and Alex loses sight of her. He arrives at the vault to find an unconscious Anne, but soon gets trapped by a second black-ops team headed by Jarnaff, a man who despises Alex from their time at the Council. As they debate, Archon silently shows up behind Alex, tells Jarnaff that he’s taking Alex and Anne, after which he takes off the helmet revealing that he is Richard Drakh. A battle between Richard, Alex and Jarnaff’s men ensues, after which Richard gates Alex and Anne to a meadow.
Alex takes Anne to Arachne for help, but at the moment nothing can be done. Variam arrives soon after with the news that Morden surrendered without a fight, but asked for a trial. And until Morden is either indicted, stripped of his powers as Councillor, or killed, the seat of the Councillor goes to his aide-Alex.
My Verdict: So Richard and Morden are clearly master manipulators. Richard knows all the ways to trick people without making them seem like they did anything unwillingly. Morden definitely knows all of the obscure rules, laws, and regulations of the Light Council. Both of them have planned events way ahead into the future, keep their cards close to their heart, and are super patient. For that, I have to give them standing ovation. The fact that Morden’s able to put aside his ego, make the attack happen on the vault, knowing that it would end his career, and take the fall for the attack on the Vault, is something completely unexpected as based on everything that Alex tells us, Dark Mages are me, me, me’s egoists. Clearly there’s a plan and a script that Morden has worked out for this situation, and that puts Alex in a position where he’s obviously being used as a puppet. He knows so little of what is going on, but is still involved because ultimately he has nowhere to go, no one to turn to in the Light Council that would help him. Except for Talisid, but even he wants Alex to work as a spy, which Alex doesn’t agree to until the last minute.
Definitely Alex is very non-committal until it’s something that will put his life on the line, and especially he worries about Anne. It’s clear that there is something there, and even Variam catches onto it, when Alex tells him his worry about Anne. I wonder if that will continue with the following books in the series, or will Alex finally make a decision about where he stands.
This book was more gripping than the last with its turns and twists, and I cannot wait to read the next book to find out more.