Bound by Alan Baxter

July 10, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Bound by Alan BaxterBound (Alex Caine #1) by Alan Baxter
Published: July 1st 2014 by HarperVoyager
Format: ARC, 352 pages
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Goodreads BooktopiaBookworld
4 Stars

Alex Caine is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.

An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else…

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards chaos and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him - the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.

This is the first Alan Baxter book I’ve picked up, and I’m certainly going to be back for more!

I loved the gritty, bloody, dangerous world that Baxter introduces in this book – Alex Caine is quickly taken from the world he knows (which isn’t exactly safe and wholesome, him being partial to illegal cage fighting) to one of magic and mortal peril, populated by blood-thirsty Fey and an evil Godling. I enjoyed uncovering the world alongside him, meeting the Clan Lords and learning about the different types of Fey.

I must admit that Alex took to the world too quickly, and he resisted it for too long. That’s confusing, so let me explain. A stranger turns up and goes ‘Oh Alex, you know how you can read people? Well that’s magic. Come help me with a mysterious magical task I have for you!’, and Alex is on a plane in a few hours. Of course, the situation is more complex than this, but when we come right down to it, I think Alex followed Welby too readily. But this eagerness disappeared quickly when Alex was confronted with Silhouette and the truth about Fey creatures. Alex had no problem believing in the magic of the book, the influence that Uthentia has, the powers of the Darak stone, but he needed vampires and werewolves explained to him three different times? Even I understood what Silhouette was saying the first time around.

Otherwise Alex Caine is a kick-butt protagonist and I liked journeying all over the world with him. One of my favourite things was how Alex was no longer bound by the mundane constraints we all are: lack of passports, money, and a change of clothes didn’t slow down his adventures one bit. I like this because all too often readers are expected to believe in amazing magic but the characters are still concerned with relatively mundane things, which doesn’t make sense to me.

Alex becomes bound to a cursed book early in the novel, and the longer he is in possession of it, the more his personality and motivations change because of its evil influence. Because it affects his psychology, Alex begins to have difficulty differentiating between what he wants and what the book is making him do. It increases the frustration, anger and rage that he feels and constantly pushes him to violence. Predictably, he finds that Silhouette can help him channel that aggression in bed and satiate the rage, but that leads to increasingly violent sexual encounters. I was uncomfortable with this for many reasons, but this situation was in keeping with the dark tone of this book, which includes a lot of blood, violence, and death.

In addition to an interesting protagonist, Baxter has created a varied and complex secondary cast, including side-kick/romantic interest Silhouette and the evil duo Mr Hood and Miss Sparks. Although I couldn’t bring myself to like Silhouette – she’s entirely too predictable – I did find Sparks and Hood compelling as the bad guys. The relationship between the two is shown through Sparks’ eyes. I initially thought that she either hated Hood and was waiting for an opportunity to kill him, getting revenge for the depraved things he did to her, or she was somehow compelled to satisfy him, perhaps by magic. But the reality is even stranger and I liked this aspect of the book. I’m disappointed that Sparks will probably not feature in the sequels (although I can’t say for sure).

I’ve enjoyed Bound a lot and encourage readers who like their urban fantasy dark and gritty to pick it up. Fans of Butcher and Wendig won’t be disappointed. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the Alex Caine series, Obsidian and Abduction, which will be released soon by HarperVoyager.

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