Book review: An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka

 

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Benedict Jacka is the author of the Alex Verus series, which began in 2012 with Fated and ended in 2021 with Risen. He’s studied philosophy at Cambridge, taught English in China, and worked at everything from civil servant to bouncer before becoming a full-time writer. For information about his books, settings, and releases, check his website at benedictjacka.co.uk or his Twitter at @benedictjacka.
Publisher: Ace (Oct 10, 2023) Length: 384 Pages Formats: 

I had a blast reading An Inheritance of Magic. It’s entertaining and immersive. All thanks to a relatable protagonist, his struggles, the accessible writing style, and, of course, his feline companion.
I would describe it as an urban fantasy with elements of progression fantasy. Much of the story revolves around the protagonist’s efforts to become more capable and skilled. But let’s start at the beginning.
The story is narrated in the first person by Stephen Oakwood. He is a poor low-class kid from east London with a few (but loyal) friends and no family. His father disappeared, and his mother abandoned him when he was just a child. If something happens to him, no one will care. Why would anything happen to him? It turns out members of House Ashford have an issue with some of Stephen’s skills and ancestry.
Stephen has been practicing Drucraft for years. With moderate success; his Sigls (magically powered items) are as strong as a flashlight. Lacking formal education or funds to secure a tutor, he relies on his intuition and untapped potential. He embodies a classic underdog archetype and has to outsmart enemies who are wealthier, stronger, and more influential than him. And in London, the super-rich control everything, magic included.
Drucraft is no longer the domain of skilled practitioners; it has turned into a profitable industry, with corporations holding all the cards. Stephen’s assets include a low-wage job (fetching documents from the basement), a cat, and determination. With some luck, though, he makes do.
An Inheritance of Magic relies on familiar urban fantasy tropes and doesn’t break new ground. Its strength lies in excellent execution, Jacka’s ability to write a likable protagonist, and good pacing. The story feels deeply human; Stephen wants power to protect himself and Hobbes (cat) and live his life as he chooses. He wants to find his father and have a family again. He also tries to unlock the full potential of his Drucraft abilities.
Are there potential weaknesses? Indeed, there are. Drucraft is a well-researched magic system with lots of detailed rules. We learn about the rules, the world, and families alongside Stephen. This occasionally slows down the pacing. The same applies to Stephen’s “upgrading” and search for new Wells (places filled with Essentia) – it gets repetitive.
While I usually dislike hard magic systems, I liked Drucraft and the social commentary that comes with it. Anyone rich enough or with good connections can gain access to powerful magical abilities. Heck, they can literally order them out of a catalog. Wealthy aristocratic families wield all the power. They also make sure the rich remain rich while those aspiring to improve their lives continue to struggle.
I’m genuinely intrigued and determined to read the sequel as soon as it becomes available.

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