This was not at all what I expected going in to this (granted, I only read the first couple of lines of the Publisher's Description) -- sure, I knew Alex's mouth would get him in trouble, he'd have to outwit someone more powerful than him, Luna would be underused -- despite Alex depending on his friends to pull him out of trouble.
What I didn't expect was Alex Verus vs. Bureaucracy, not the catchiest of titles, but pretty accurate. Don't get me wrong, it's not like the Star Wars prequels with all the bureaucracy, trade negotiations, etc. Jacka keeps things tense, keeps things interesting, even as what Alex is battling is really just Office Politics (along with other kinds of politics).
Alex tries to take one more step towards credibility, of shedding his Dark mage past (not that almost anyone will let him), to a position where he can do some good, and hopefully have allies when Richard steps out into the limelight. Long-term, strategic thinking -- I like it when UF heroes act like that. It's brains, not brawn, that carry the day here.
This isn't to suggest, that this is a dry -- or combat-free -- book. Alex gets down and dirty, as usual -- against some pretty tough characters. But, I'm not convinced that the worst people that Alex and his friends went up against were the ones wearing the Black Hats. Not that they were angels, but, man, there were some nasty people in these pages.
There are some really interesting developments with Luna's training and development. Alex makes a couple of useful allies -- including a combat mage who is quite possibly the most entertaining character in the series thus far. And because that's never enough for him -- Alex picks up one new enemy and deepens tensions with another.
And Richard? Well, something tells me that specter's going to be looming for a bit longer. But then again, I thought we were going to get a few more Kitty Norville books and that we'd see Richard in action here -- so what do I know?
I seem to be mostly rambling here, so I'm just going to say: Alex Verus is a character you should get to know, in a series that should be on your TBR list. I wouldn't start with this one, I really think Fated is where you want to climb aboard.