Today we have Benedict Jacka (how cool is that name?) visiting us to introduce the second book in his Alex Verus urban fantasy seriesseries; CURSED (available now from Ace). Jim Butcher gave the series his endorsement saying that, “Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously—and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list.”—Jim Butcher. My review will be up soon. Check out the giveaway below to win a copy of CURSED.
Being a Diviner – Pros and Cons
Diviners are mages with the unique ability to see the future. This doesn’t mean they can see what is going to happen – it means they can see what might happen, in terms of probability. Given a possible action, a diviner can look ahead and see what the consequences of that action might be. If they’re about to flip a switch, or press a button, or go through a door, they can look into the future to see what’ll happen if they do. The closer and the more mechanical a possible future is, the more easily a diviner can predict it – figuring out which wire to cut on a bomb is easy, guessing tomorrow’s weather is hard.
The major weakness of diviners is that while their magic can see possible futures, it can’t change those futures. Divination magic can’t affect the physical world at all. This means that while a diviner can see possibilities, if they want to actually do anything about those possibilities they’re not going to have any magical help. Other mages can protect themselves with elemental shields, strike with fire and lightning, or walk between worlds, but diviners only have the physical abilities of an ordinary man.
The combination of great knowledge and physical weakness means that diviners get a very mixed reception from other mages. Any elemental mage looking at a diviner knows that he could beat up the diviner with no more effort than it would take to tie his shoes. On the other hand, that elemental mage also knows that the diviner could find out every one of his most dirty and embarrassing secrets and, should he feel like it, mail copies of those secrets to everyone the elemental mage has ever met. As a result other mages tend to regard diviners with a mixture of contempt and uneasiness that doesn’t make for warm feelings. Diviners and other mages are rarely friends.
The abilities of a diviner put them in the weird position of being very powerful and very vulnerable at the same time. Nobody can spot an ambush like a diviner, and in games of secrets and information a diviner is king. On the other hand, a diviner can only protect themselves from danger if they not only remember to look ahead, but also look in the right place. If a diviner misses something they don’t have any safety net to fall back on.
Divination magic is one of the more stressful types of magic to use. Diviners can theoretically see every possible future stemming from every possible action – and then every possible future stemming from that, and every possible future stemming from that, thousands of futures branching into millions and billions, all constantly changing. If a diviner ever opened their mental eye to look at all of those futures at once it would destroy them, the infinite knowledge wiping away their mind like an ocean wave rolling over a drop of water. To stay sane diviners have to develop a high level of mental discipline, narrowing their mental vision through a ‘lens’ in order to only see a manageable number of futures at once.
Divination does have limits. It can only predict that which can be predicted, and two things are by definition unpredictable – chance and free will. Some things are truly random, or so close that it makes no difference – a diviner can analyse them in terms of probability, but can’t do more than make an educated guess. Finally, if a person genuinely hasn’t made a choice, a diviner can’t see which path they’ll choose. They can see the most likely options, and the consequences of each, but in the end the decision is up to the one who makes it.
Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he’s studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.
Giveaway provided by Ace
One copy of CURSED by Benedict Jacka
Available now from Ace
Since his second sight made him infamous for defeating powerful dark mages, Alex 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 realizes that 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…
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